- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 25, 2002

NEW YORK Owners immediately slammed baseball players yesterday for making what management called backward proposals on the key issues of revenue sharing and a luxury tax.
Just six days before the union's Aug.30 strike deadline, the sides appeared to be on a collision course for baseball's ninth work stoppage since 1972.
"We could not have been more disappointed in the proposal we received," said Rob Manfred, the owners' chief labor lawyer. "This is raw, regressive bargaining."
Players said their proposals were a positive step that moved closer toward the clubs and didn't understand why management publicly attacked them.
"Whoever the bar owner was in 'Casablanca' was shocked to find gambling, too," union head Donald Fehr said.
Manfred accused players of backtracking on increased revenue sharing because the union's proposal phased in the increases. Owners want the entire amount of the increase to start next year, which players think would cripple the richest teams.
While owners want $268million transferred next year from the wealthiest teams to the poorest ones, up from about $169million under the current formula, the union proposed transfers of $172.3million in 2003, $195.6million in 2004, $219million in 2005 and $242.3million in 2006.
In the final year of the proposed deal, the sides are relatively close. Owners have proposed transferring $268million. All figures use 2001 revenue figures for analysis.
Under the union's plan, teams would share 33.3 percent of their local revenue, up from 20 percent under the current deal. Fehr said players had previously been at 31 percent and owners at 37 percent, and that the union shifted to management's preferred method of redistributing the money, which favors middle-market teams.
Fehr said the sides had discussed phase-ins for at least the past 1 years. The union thinks that's important because the very richest teams, such as the New York Yankees, would have to pay more next year although the overall transfer amount wouldn't change.
"The parties have discussed for a long time that when agreements are eventually reached, changes will have to be phased in over time," Fehr said. "They clearly understand this would be phased in. Therefore, I am at a loss to explain what this is all about."
The union also moved $5million closer to the owners on the luxury tax, designed to slow spending by high-payroll teams, but Manfred said that was far short of what owners want because it would affect only two teams next year, based on this season's salaries.
"If they had made any sort of move that was in our direction, we would have made a countermove already. The thing we're dealing with is how to respond to a move that went the wrong way," Manfred said.
He called the proposal "so out of the realm of expectation that it's going to take us a little time."
While owners want to tax the portions of 40-man payrolls over $102million (including $9million in benefits), players proposed thresholds of $125million in 2003, $135million in 2004 and $145million in 2005 all $5million less than the union's previous offer.
Players have proposed tax rates of 15 to 40 percent, while the owners have proposed 37.5 to 50 percent. Owners also are angry that the players refuse to agree to a tax in 2006, the final year of the agreement.
Manfred chided Fehr for giving a "20-minute monologue" before the proposal on "Don's view of the world."
"It was a recitation of his view of how the negotiations had gone," Manfred said.
On Friday, when asked what was needed to spark talks on the key issues, Fehr said, "Rob knows what he has to do."
Said Manfred: "My answer to that is, apparently Don doesn't know what he needs to do."
Players said they thought their plan would move talks forward.
"We never expected them to accept it, but at least it's a move, and it's a significant move," Arizona's Mark Grace said. "Any kind of dialogue and any kind of movement is good. They moved a few days ago and we moved today, so the gap was narrowed. If we continue to do this, pretty soon the gap will be small enough that we can avoid a work stoppage."
Players and owners also are apart on drug testing, with owners saying the union's proposal doesn't go far enough. The union is willing to have mandatory random testing for illegal steroids and wants 2003 to be a survey. Players proposed that if more than 5 percent test positive, a second survey be taken in 2004. If more than 5 percent test positive that year, mandatory random testing would start the following year.

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