- The Washington Times - Monday, August 26, 2002

NEW YORK A day after criticizing players, baseball owners made a new economic proposal yesterday that moved toward the union in an effort to head off a strike later this week.
Players, who have set a Friday deadline for a walkout, called the economic plan slight progress, and union head Donald Fehr said "the differences continue to be narrowed."
Owners raised their thresholds for a luxury tax and lowered their proposed tax rates, and also slightly decreased the amount of local revenue they want teams to share. They also made a new proposal on testing for steroid use, where the sides remain apart on details.
"While they did make some small movements in those areas, the luxury tax thresholds remain very, very low and constitute a big problem for us at this point," he said. When combined, he said the revenue sharing and luxury tax plans still look "very much like a salary cap."
So five days before the strike deadline, baseball was still faced with the prospect of its ninth work stoppage since 1972, one that could further antagonize fans fed up with the sport's near-constant fights over money.
On Saturday night, management negotiators severely criticized the union for proposing the revenue-sharing increases be phased in, using the most harsh language since talks began in January.
Rob Manfred, the owners' top labor lawyer, said that after consultation with commissioner Bud Selig, his side decided "the best way to find out if they were serious about making an agreement was to put whatever happened last night to one side and make a forthcoming proposal and see if they could manage to do the same thing."
On revenue sharing, owners proposed that teams share 36percent of their locally generated revenue, up from 20percent this year. The teams' previous plan was 37percent, and the union moved up to 33.3percent in its Saturday proposal.
Using 2001 revenue figures for analysis, the owners' plan would transfer $263million annually from baseball's richest teams to its poorest. Because the union's proposal was to phase in changes a concept owners object to and say was not brought up until recently the players' proposal would transfer $172.3million in 2003, $195.6million in 2004, $219million in 2005 and $242.3million in 2006.
"From our point, phase-ins are going to be integral parts of this deal," Fehr said.
On the luxury tax, designed to slow spending by high-payroll teams, the owners previously proposed to tax the portions of payrolls above $102million. Yesterday, they increased their threshold to $107million in the first three years of the new contract and to $111million in 2006.
Players have proposed thresholds of $125million next year, $135million in 2004, $145million in 2005 and no tax in the final season of the deal.
Owners lowered most of their proposed tax rates by 2.5percent yesterday, proposing a team be taxed at 35percent the first time it exceeded the threshold, 40percent the second time, 45percent the third time and 50percent the fourth time.
Players proposed rates Saturday of 15 to 40percent.
"The deal is there," Yankees player representative Mike Stanton said. "It's just a matter of getting it done. There have been concessions made on both sides and we're still meeting. That's a reason why I'm cautiously optimistic."

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