The issues of expansion, drugs and salaries pushed rumors of trades to the background as the major league baseball owners opened their annual winter convention today.
Commissioner Peter Ueberroth has said he would like to establish a timetable for expansion at these meetings, but some owners have said that is unlikely.
Certainly the most controversial topic facing owners is drugs. At least 10 teams have said they will include mandatory drug testing in long-term contracts. Although the Major League Players Association has not yet responded to this action, many players have been told to expect legal action by their union, a source close to the players said.
Player agent Tom Reich, speaking of the union's reaction, said: "There is a split there." He indicated the split involved its leadership as well as constituency.
Don Fehr, executive director of the union, said: "There was a clear consensus at the board meeting and we're going to act on that consensus in the next several days . . . I know of no split."
Reich also said the owners' new wariness of large contracts calls for hard work with individual clubs. "There are no legal solutions . . . ' said Reich. "The only thing that will work is maintaining a good relationship with the people on the other side of the table."
Fehr agreed the new climate calls for toughness, but added: "There is a provision in the Basic Agreement that prohibits collusion. We could file a grievance."
Ownership has shown little enthusiasm for free agents, including Detroit Tigers outfielder Kirk Gibson and California Angels reliever Donnie Moore.
Trade reports concerning Andre Dawson of Montreal, Terry Kennedy of San Diego and Ed Whitson of the New York Yankees surfaced, but in the only trade completed, the St. Louis Cardinals acquired right-hander Mark Ross, who spent most of last season in the minors, from Houston for a player to be named.