Baseball players strike out over cap on salary
Monday 08 August 1994
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.
- 2 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 4 Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
'Fire at every person you see': Israeli soldiers reveal they were ordered to shoot to kill in Gaza – even if the targets may have been civilians
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Who should I vote for? The Independent quiz matches best political party for undecided voters ahead of the general election
First-time buyers in London 'need to earn at least £77,000'
General Election 2015: Photographic history of Bullingdon Club tracked down - including new picture of David Cameron in his finery
In defence of liberal democracy
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...
£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...