Two weeks from the major league baseball players' strike deadline, negotiators for the players and club owners discussed noneconomic details today but not major money issues.
In a 3 1/2-hour session at the Major League Baseball Players Association offices, the parties discussed about 25 smaller, noncritical issues such as scheduling, allowances, waiver procedures and spring training.
"We have, hopefully, put some of those issues to rest, and we have narrowed the differences on the other ones," said Donald Fehr, acting executive director of the players union.
He said that once noncritical issues have been cleared, negotiations can begin on economic differences for the first time since early March, when the sides began a protracted debate over how much money the clubs were losing.
Fehr said, "We didn't have any major breakthrough; we've got bigger things to discuss. I don't see any light at the end of the tunnel, but I haven't crashed into any walls yet, either."
The next negotiating session was set for Wednesday at the American and National leagues' offices.
The major issues -- the players' demand that owners increase their contribution to the players' benefit plan to $60 million a year and the owners' proposal that a salary cap be imposed on teams -- likely will carry the talks to the players' Aug. 6 strike deadline.
"I think it's inevitable, yes, that the talks will go down to the last couple of days," said Lee MacPhail, chief negotiator for the owners. "There's still a big difference on our views. They haven't changed theirs, and ours haven't either. Obviously, I'm optimistic because I'm an optimistic person but, truthfully, based on where the two parties are, it's hard to be optimistic. I think there's enough intelligence on both sides to get out of this. Neither side wants a strike."