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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine