Federal mediator Kenneth Moffett said yesterday that it could be several weeks before representatives of the players and owners meet again to discuss the baseball strike, entering its 46th day.
In that event, it is likely the season will not be resumed. The consensus among most baseball people is that if the strike is not settled on or near Aug. 1, there would be no point in resuming the season.
"It doesn't look good," Moffett told The Washington Post yesterday. "Marvin (Miller) says he will go on the road around the country to speak with clusters of players, and it will be difficult to negotiate during that time. It may be several weeks again before we start up." Miller is executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.
Moffett said he would be talking with representatives of the players and owners today.
When told of Moffett's statement, Don Fehr, general counsel of the players association, said, "I don't know what to say. It is possible that it could be a couple of weeks. It's not like we're close to a deal and we will come running back to negotiate.
"Marvin is planning on having some regional meetings with the players to discuss a lot of things."
Fehr indicated Moffett's statement would be discussed today at a meeting in Chicago between the player representatives of the 26 teams and Miller. There had been some optimism that the meeting would be productive, that the players and owners were getting closer to an agreement.
Early yesterday, Peter O'Malley, owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, was hopeful.
"I really believe it will be settled this week," he said. "Our proposal has got their attention. Hopefully, there is a good chance they will accept it, if not in total, then certainly a part of it. I hope they accept about 90 percent of it. I would be surprised and disappointed if they rejected it."
O'Malley, who despite strike insurance is losing between $300,000 to $500,000 per home game, more than any other owner in baseball, changed his tone when he heard of Moffett's gloomy prediction.
"I think it's ridiculous," said O'Malley, who is among the most respected owners. "If that is his opinion, we may have to meet without him (Moffett).
"If both parties went to meet, then we will find a time to meet."
In today's meeting in Chicago, the players will have a familiar proposal before them.
"It's basically the same proposal we gave them Thursday night," said Ray Grebey, the owner's chief negotiator. "Sure, we made a few changes in wording, dotted a few i's. But it is substantially the same thing that Marvin didn't have the authorization to take up Thursday night."
Fehr said of today's meeting, "It is a regular meeting of the executive board. The main purpose of the meeting is to update everyone on the situation."
Fehr said it is possible the player representatives will vote on the owners' proposal. "If any board member makes a motion to vote on any matter and the motion passes, then we will vote," he said.
Mark Belanger, the Oriole shortstop and player representative, had a different understanding of the meeting. "We will not take a vote on anything," he said.