07/19/2002 8:34 pm ET
Talks center on revenue sharing
By Barry Bloom / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Labor representatives for Major League Baseball and the players association got down to business on Friday, talking about one of the core issues central to a new collective bargaining agreement: revenue sharing.
It was the first discussion since the owners tweaked their current economic proposal last month. And with three more sessions scheduled Wednesday through Friday of next week, the talks at least set the tone for some positive movement forward, said Rob Manfred, MLB's vice president of labor relations and human resources.
"We spent the entire session talking about revenue sharing," Manfred said. "There were no new proposals, but it was a very productive day."
With Don Fehr, the union's executive director on the road talking to players each day to gauge the mood about setting a strike date, the negotiators have been trying to find some common ground to energize the talks.
Fehr, in Los Angeles Friday where he addressed the San Francisco Giants before their game against the Dodgers, agreed that mutually deciding on how to share locally generated revenue may unbolt what has appeared to be a negotiating deadlock.
"I don't know if it's the biggest hurdle, but it's an approach that will go a long way," Fehr said.
The industry will generate close to $4 billion in revenue this season and the owners are seeking to move between $250 million and $300 million of that money from the richer teams to the poorer ones. The players' current proposal would allow the owners to split $188 million and give the commissioner discretion to distribute another $30 million from baseball's central fund.
Both sides agree that there needs to be an increase in the amount of revenue sharing, but have disagreed on the amount and the mechanism to get there.
The owners' core economic proposal calls for a raise in revenue sharing from 20 percent to 50 percent and a 50 percent luxury tax on the portion of any team's player payroll above $98 million. Last month, they adjusted their proposal to phase in the luxury tax and lower the commissioner's discretionary spending from $100 million to $85 million a season. But the owners have not moved off of their percentage figures.
The players are against the tax. They are also seeking a raise in revenue sharing of about 2 1/2 to 5 percent. They have yet to respond to the owners' latest adjustments of their core proposal.
Eight members of the Red Sox attended Friday's meeting in New York. Boston is in New York to start a key weekend series against the Yankees.
Away from the bargaining sessions, Fehr continues to try and build a consensus among the 30 teams.
"We brief them on where we are, have a lot of discussions and hear the players' views," Fehr said. "It's a very informative, deliberative and interactive process. It always has been. There's a myth that the players are not part of the process. I dare say that the players are as much or more a part of the process than in any union that has ever existed."
The old basic agreement expired this past Nov. 7, but baseball has continued to operate under those rules.
The owners have pledged not to lock out the players or declare an impasse in negotiations this season. The players, though, are concerned that the owners will do so immediately after the World Series.
Thus, as Fehr makes his tour of all clubs, players are moving closer to authorizing the union's executive board to set a strike date sometime in August or September, if it's determined that there is little progress in contract talks.
"We're all on the same page about that," Padres reliever Trevor Hoffman said Thursday. "If there's a decision that has to be made in the future, we're all comfortable with what might have to happen."
Barry M. Bloom is a regular contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or any of its clubs.