Commissioner Peter Ueberroth said today that he can't allow a baseball strike, but when representatives of the two sides in the major league baseball contract negotiations met for the fifth straight day the discussion centered on relatively minor issues.
Ueberroth said in an interview with KNX Radio in Los Angeles: "I just really can't allow there to be a strike that shuts down America's national pastime. It's been shut down too many times in the past. It's just not the right thing." Ueberroth's comments to the CBS affiliate were made Thursday night and aired today. Ueberroth was not available to comment today.
"We're no closer together on the fundamental economic issues than we were yesterday," Donald Fehr, acting executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said after a two-hour session. "There was very little discussion of them. I don't want to suggest that there is any considerable movement in that area because there hasn't been.
"Without passing the fact that the matters discussed today do not address the central issues yet . . . we do regard the attempt that was made today to be constructive. On the other kinds of issues, there has been some movement, and we'll respond in kind, hopefully on Sunday, and move the ball a little further. But I don't want to kid anybody. The issues -- alone or in combinations -- that are likely to determine whether there will be a strike or a settlement are not the subsidiary issues."
Lee MacPhail, chief negotiator for the owners as head of the Player Relations Committee, acknowledged that the issues discussed were minor, and, alone, would not lead to an agreement before the Aug. 6 strike date.
MacPhail said the two sides had agreed "or come very close to agreeing" on about 22 non-economic issues and had about 20 more items to go before they could turn their attention to issues like pensions, salary arbitration and free agency.
"The problem is we don't have a meeting on the major issues, and both sides are still working on it away from the table," MacPhail said after leaving the meeting, which was held at union offices. "But it doesn't make sense to come to the table and argue, to make the same arguments over and over on the major issues. So we're trying to use this time to clear up everything else so if we can resolve the major issues, we can have a total agreement before the sixth."
MacPhail put forth a new "multi-issue" proposal he hoped would "clear the decks" of most of the rest of the minor issues such as scheduling, licensing, agents and waiver rules.
Thursday the owners resubmitted their original proposal on salary arbitration, which Fehr then rejected. Today, MacPhail could not say when the owners would submit a proposal on the pension plan.
MacPhail said that as far as he knew, there were no plans for Ueberroth to enter the negotiations.