Baseball players strike out over cap on salary

BARRING miraculous intervention from on high - or, even less likely, an outbreak of sweet reason by the parties to the dispute - US major league baseball players will go on strike this week, beginning what many fear could be the longest stoppage in the history of the national pastime.

Unless the players and owners reach agreement on a new 1995 labour contract, the strike will start on Friday. When it might end is anyone's guess. But the likelihood is that it will wipe out the remaining 52 days of the regular season, exceeding the 50-day 1981 dispute, hitherto the worst of baseball's seven strikes thus far.

Others fear it could be longer still. Jerry Reinsdorf, head of the Chicago White Sox and something of a moderate in the confrontation, has predicted that this year's championship play-offs and World Series will be lost, and possibly the entire 1995 season. Yet to be convincingly explained to the general public is why players earning an average dollars 1.2m ( pounds 800,000) each and even richer club owners seem determined to pull the plug on a game which is a booming dollars 2bn industry, seemingly poised to enter a new golden age.

The reasons are two. One, predictably, is money. The other is baseball's poisoned history of labour relations which has thus far made significant concession by either side impossible. The owners are demanding a salary cap; essential, they say, if widespread bankruptcies are to be avoided and the game's future to be secured. To which the players retort that a cap is an interference with the free market, and a device to divert income into the owners' pockets.

According to the owners, 19 of the 28 major league teams will lose up to dollars 12m apiece this year - a predicament they blame on soaring player salaries and a new, less lucrative network television contract. These figures, however, are disputed by the players. They point to the record dollars 173m price paid only last year for a single franchise, and argue that the owners themselves pay the salaries they so loudly complain about.

Such have been the battle lines for the last 18 months. Sporadic negotiations broke down a few weeks ago. Fearing the owners would unilaterally impose the cap during this winter's close season when the clubs had nothing to lose financially, the players called the strike for 12 August. This threatens not only the climax of the regular season but also the play-offs and World Series, which command the big television money.

Thus matters stand, with scant hope of a breakthrough. Asked if a strike was likely, the players' representative Don Fehr replied grimly yesterday: 'I think so.' Dick Ravitch, his opposite number on the owners' side, concurred. The Clinton administration is watching matters closely, but is wary of stepping into a dispute which makes the health care argument look a model of good- natured simplicity.

Mistrust between the two sides is rooted in history. Until the early Seventies players were virtual indentured labourers. Having won freedoms taken for granted in any other walk of life, they were in no mood to surrender an inch of ground - even before the owners last week withheld unilaterally a scheduled contribution to the players' pension fund. The players decided to stick to the original 12 August date, but what small hopes existed of a settlement had dwindled to next to nothing.

The real losers will be the thousands of people, from hotdog sellers to ticket clerks, who make their living from baseball - and the fans. This season was shaping up as one in which several venerable records could fall. San Diego's Tony Gwynn has been threatening to become the first man to hit .400 in a season since 1941, while Matt Williams of San Francisco is near 61 home runs in a season, a record set up 34 years ago.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star