- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2002

NEW YORK As baseball moved within two days of another work stoppage, commissioner Bud Selig arrived at major league offices and negotiators worked late into the night to try to avert a planned strike.
Players are set to walk out tomorrow unless there is an agreement for a labor contract. Because of the threat, four of the 12 teams traveling for weekend series pushed back their flights a day, waiting to see if compromises could be reached on the main sticking points: levels for a luxury tax and revenue sharing.
"I still think we're going to get something done," Atlanta pitcher Tom Glavine, the National League player representative, said yesterday. "I just think we're all too close on too much of this to let it fall apart. I believe that. I still think there's going to be a lot of gamesmanship in the last 24 hours."
Selig, who presided over the 1994-95 strike that led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years, said upon his arrival that he hadn't decided whether to enter the talks directly. He said he hoped to "have a constructive 24, 36 hours."
Many players had wanted him to be on hand, saying no deal could be agreed to without Selig giving his approval in person.
"I'm very grateful and appreciative that the commissioner of baseball feels that 48 hours before another work stoppage, it's important enough for him to leave Milwaukee and go to New York," New York Mets pitcher Al Leiter said.
Negotiators met yesterday afternoon for about 45 minutes at the commissioner's office and had two brief evening meetings, exchanging ideas for solutions. Their spokesmen said additional meetings were possible.
"It's coming down to the deadline," St. Louis player representative Steve Kline said. "We'll find out if the owners are trying to get a deal. We've moved on a lot of issues. Hopefully, they can manage to reach us."
Owners want to slow spending by high-payroll teams with a luxury tax and want to increase the amount of locally generated revenue that teams share from 20 percent to 36 percent. Players are at 33.3 percent and want to phase in the increase.
Management also wants to tax the portions of payrolls above $107million, with the threshold increasing to $111million in 2006, and proposed tax rates of 35-50 percent. Players offered thresholds of $125million to $145million, and tax rates of 15-50 percent, with no tax in the final year.
The sides also discussed contract language that dealt with the owners' desire to fold two franchises, one general manager said on condition of anonymity. The union has opposed contraction.
Pressure on the negotiators increased with each passing hour as they tried to prevent the sport's ninth work stoppage since 1972. The first game affected would be at Chicago's Wrigley Field, where the Cubs are to play the Cardinals at 3:20 p.m. tomorrow.
"No, there is not going to be any extension," Toronto player representative Vernon Wells said. "We set a date, we'll stick by it and, hopefully, something will get done before then."
Since the union set the strike date Aug.16, fans have expressed anger and frustration. A sign in the right-field bleachers at Chicago's Comiskey Park yesterday read: "On Strike/Who Cares/Go Bears."
"We see the signs, and you hear comments from time to time about strike-related stuff. Sometimes those things are harsh," the Brewers' Mark Loretta said in Milwaukee. "It's so hard to try to explain to people what the issues are when you're talking about those kinds of dollars and this kind of industry, and the fans are in the middle of it."
Just in case there is a strike, some Cleveland players gave the clubhouse attendants their season-ending tips yesterday. The White Sox, also off today, might have ended their season with yesterday's 8-0 win over Toronto.
"We're packing our bags for Detroit. It doesn't feel like the last game," Chicago's Paul Konerko said. "Even if there is a strike, it will probably only last a couple of days."
Oakland's Barry Zito, his team fighting for a playoff berth, wanted to know what would happen to the schedule if there was a brief stoppage, such as the two-day August strike in 1985. He said union officials told him any missed games would be made up if a strike is short.
"It could be a situation where we could play into October again in the regular season," Zito said, referring to last season, when the season was extended a week because of the September11 terrorist attacks.
Player representatives held a 30-minute conference call to get an update from the union staff and scheduled another call for today. Much of the talk concerned minor issues such as interleague play and scheduling, according to players.
Atlanta, Boston, the White Sox and Colorado rescheduled their charters for tomorrow. It's unclear when an agreement would have to be reached to allow today's games to take place.
On Tuesday, players said the sides agreed to a drug-testing plan, one of the components management said was necessary for an agreement. Rob Manfred, management's chief labor lawyer, refused to confirm a drug agreement.
Los Angeles player representative Paul Lo Duca, who revealed the agreement, was scolded by players on the conference call for misstating it. Lo Duca said the deal covered mandatory random testing for steroids, marijuana and cocaine, but other players corrected him yesterday.
"Cocaine and marijuana we're not testing for that. Just steroids," Kline said.

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