Baseball: Lock-out closer for the players

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The Independent Online
BASEBALL'S 28 owners have voted by the smallest possible margin to reopen their labour agreement with the players' union this winter, bringing closer the prospect of a lock-out at the start of next season.

The closeness of the vote, by

15-13, at baseball's winter meetings in Louisville, Kentucky, underlines the deep divisions in the sport between those who are prepared to risk everything to cut costs by reversing the increase in player salaries and those who wanted to avoid anything that would jeopardise the 1993 season.

'We are not seeking a confrontation,' said Richard Ravitch, the head of the major leagues' player relations committee who was hired by the owners to produce an economic plan that would limit their projected losses over the next two years. Ravitch added that it was no one's intention to push the players' union into a corner.

Don Fehr, head of the Major League Players' Association, questioned Ravitch's intentions. 'History is not with us. Let us hope history is not a guide this time,' he said in reference to the last set of labour talks, in 1990, which ended in a lock-out.

Marge Schott, the owner of the Cincinnati Reds, attempted to diffuse the row over her use of racist terms in referring to two of her former players as 'million-dollar niggers' and in speaking of 'money- grubbing Jews'. Schott issued a public apology, saying: 'I acknowledge that in the past I have on occasion made insensitive remarks which I now realise hurt others. . . for any such remarks which were insensitive I am profoundly sorry.'

Carl Barger, the Florida Marlins president, died yesterday while undergoing surgery after collapsing at the owners' meeting. He was 60.

Barry Bonds yesterday finalised his six-year dollars 43.75m ( pounds 29.1m) contract with San Francisco.