Federal mediator Kenneth E. Moffett said yesterday he strill believes binding arbitration is the best way to resolve the baseball strike, now 48 days old.
Mofett, who has not yet scheduled new negotiations, said binding arbitration would provide "a quick fix that would get everyone back on the field immediately, or at least in a week."
When the Major League Baseball Players Association proposed submitting the strike's issues to binding arbitration almost two weeks ago, the owners' bargaining team rejected the idea. But, Moffett said, "There's no such thing as a dead position in collective bargaining. They can all be resurrected."
Moffett said he had no indication that either side had changed its position arbitration. "The reason to suggest it is that apparently neither side has changed their position (on compensation). We've had heavy-duty mediation, heavy-duty recommendations (the mediator's proposal). We brought in the secretary of labor (Raymond J. Donovan). After a week's hiatus, we're not any closer to a settlement, so I'm suggesting binding arbitration."
Edward Bennett Williams, the owner of the Baltimore Orioles, who proposed binding arbitration months ago, said, "There are a lot of owners and players who think after 48 days that the collective bargaining process has totally failed. If you come to that conclusion, there's only one other solution, i.e., arbitration."
Williams and the 13 other American League team owners will meet at 1 p.m. today at the Bankers Trust building in New York. "I can't tell you what will happen at that meeting," Williams said. "All options will be canvassed. That (binding arbitration) is an option. It, like other things, will come up."
Lee MacPhil, American League president, agreed the subject would be discussed, but doubted that the owners would change their position because, he said, "I do not think the majority of the clubs want it."
After the American League meeting, the full membership of the Player Relations Committee, the 26 clubs, will gather at the Citicorp building at 3:30 p.m.
Some in management expect little to come out of the sessions, at least publicly. After the players' show of strength Monday night in Chicago, the thinking in some quarters is that the owners will have to make a similar showing or risk looking weak. Others, citing the volatility of the situation and some of the owners involved, disagree.
Steve Greenberg, a player agent, who has been acting as an informal go-between in the negotiations, said, "It's going to be very different from the last ownership meeting (July 9). There was a lot of speculation that there was yelling and I understand there was none of that. At this point, especially since the American League will be buoyed by meeting separately, there will more divisiveness openly expressed."
It is no secret, as Greenberg points out, that the majority of "that (American) league says, 'Let's get something done.' The question is whether they get squashed by the relatively solid block in the National League."
The question of binding arbitration came up after the last owners' meeting and was not discussed by the 26 owners before it was rejected. "There was no chance to give it a glimmer of thought," Greenberg said.
By his estimate, the split in ownership is now 15 for the Player Relations Committee and 11 against; those who are generally hard-liners on the compensation and credited service issues, he says, are not likely to be moderate on binding arbitration.
But, he said, "One owner told me if we're so confident of our position, why not submit it to binding arbitration."
One reason, sources say, is that an arbitrator likely would take the two sides' last positions and split the difference down the middle, giving the players too much of a victory in management's eyes.
Moffett proposed arbitration before the strike began June 12, and several times during the course of negotiations, before the players reversed their position and decided to advocate it two weeks ago.
Moffett said he had spoken Tuesday with Ray Grebey, the owners' chief negotiator, and that Grebey was available for a bargaining session but had not spoken with Marvin Miller, the executive director of the players association, whos is in Los Angeles for the first of the regional player meetings. Moffett said no negotiations were scheduled and he would not call any until the owners had a chance to meet today.
Reached in Los Angeles, Miller said, "We've never taken the proposal (for arbitration) off the table. We've reiterated it on several occasions, most notably Monday night."
Asked if arbitration represents the best solution to the strike, Miller said, "It i a solution. Is it the only solution? That I can't tell you."
There also was speculation that the owners might decide today to name a date by which they would call off the season in an attempt to place pressure on the players. But several management sources said they seriously doubted that would happen. "I don't think we'll do that," one said. "The players then could argue that, 'You canceled the season as of Aug. 15, you have to pay us because you foreclosed the possibility of a settlement.'"
MacPhail said: "People talk about it (naming a date on which the season would end), but I'm reluctant to put a date on it. That is utter defeat and I don't want to accept defeat."