Baseball: Players set for strike action

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The Independent Online
THE baseball season in the United States reaches its midway break for the all-star game with its players set to strike over demands by owners for salary limits.

'We all know there will be a stoppage,' said Seattle's Ken Griffey Jnr, who is poised to break the record for home runs scored in a season. 'I'm not going to be selfish and talk about a record and put that ahead of everything else.'

Every contract negotiation since 1972 has resulted in a stoppage, with owners locking out players in 1973, 1976 and 1990 and players striking in 1972, 1980, 1981 and 1985.

'All the players, unfortunately, are ready for (a strike),' Mike Piazza, the Los Angeles Dodgers catcher, said. 'It's something we all hope to avoid, but it might be the only option. The owners have proven in the past they don't take us seriously until we strike.'

Players' union leaders will gather today in Pittsburgh, the site of tomorrow's all-star game. But a strike date is not likely to be set until later this month.

'Some people are angry,' Donald Fehr, the players' union chairman, said. 'You don't make decisions when you're angry. You wait until you cool down.'

A September strike would hurt the owners most, coming in the season's final days when interest is greatest as teams battle for play-off positions. The owners receive 75 per cent of their television money in October for the play-offs, while players will have been paid a full season's salary.

Jerry Reinsdorf, the Chicago White Sox owner, said a strike could prompt owners to wipe out the 1995 season. 'I'm not predicting it, but it's possible a strike could go into 1996,' he said.

With 265 players earning dollars 1m ( pounds 670,000) or more this year, owners have proposed salary limits and equal revenue sharing.

The players plan to submit a proposal - stressing their rights to seek more money from rival clubs and seeking an increase in the minimum dollars 109,000 salary - to owners on Thursday.

'Until we hear the union's view, we have nothing to negotiate,' Richard Ravitch, the owners' lawyer, said. 'We would like to know what they believe it is going to cost to play baseball.'

A survey funded by the owners showed 72 per cent of fans thought players were paid too much and salary limits were needed.