Baseball: Defiant players stay on base: Congress set to examine owners' exemption from monopoly laws

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

AS HE prepared to face a congressional subcommittee assessing baseball's historic - and, to many, inexplicable - exemption from federal monopoly laws, the leader of the players' union, Donald Fehr, drew further encouragement yesterday from the solidarity of the strikers.

Along with the acting commissioner, Bud Selig, Fehr is due to testify before the subcommittee today. Yesterday, though, his energies were focused on next February, when the owners might elect to open training camps in an effort to break the strike. 'It's my job to be concerned if there's still a strike at that point,' he said yesterday after briefing 33 representatives from 19 teams. 'I have not had an occasion to doubt the unity and the resolve of the players since this started, and I don't now.

I think we're in no man's land. I just hope there is a desire on the other side to try and reach an accommodation before things get a lot worse.'

Tom Glavine, the players' representative of the Atlanta Braves, was adamant that neither he nor his team-mates were for turning. 'I know my guys haven't changed one bit,' he said. 'I think they fully understand what's going on. They are not about to agree to a salary cap or anything that looks like a salary cap.'

Glavine was similarly enthusiastic about the unity shown at the meeting. 'Everybody is on the same page,' he said. 'Everybody is behind it the way we've been all along.'

Fehr expressed his desire for a speedy end to the impasse 'so that we can reassure the fans we're not going to have this problem next year. That requires them (the owners) to want an agreement. So far, that hasn't been their choice. This is not easy stuff. The owners want to play hardball.'

'It's up to them to come back and talk to us if they ever want to,' Glavine added. 'We all love baseball and we all want to play, but we don't want to play under those rules. That's the bottom line. The sooner owners understand, the sooner we'll get together and get something done.'

There has been no formal communication between the warring factions since 9 September, and, according to Fehr, no talks are scheduled. The union believes owners will attempt to declare an impasse in bargaining and unilaterally implement the salary cap. 'This is about breaking the union and getting their power back,' Glavine said, 'and ultimately getting a lot of money out of it.' The latest evidence of the cost of the strike comes courtesy of Selig's own Milwaukee Brewers, who have announced their intention to offload 30 of the club's 73 employees, more than 40 per cent of the pre-strike staff.