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New Proposals Aren’t Big Hit

They postured and bickered and barely negotiated Saturday at the baseball talks in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Baseball players and owners traded new proposals, but the plans angered both sides - who spent more time holding news conferences than they did talking to each other and remained almost just as far apart.

“What inning are we in?” Colorado Rockies chairman Jerry McMorris said. “It’s a very slow, tedious, torturous (process), but I would hope the pace would pick up.”

Both sides had said this weekend was critical if they intended to reach an agreement that would get major leaguers back on the field by opening day, scheduled for April 2. They aren’t scheduled to meet today, but may.

“Obviously, at the rate we’re moving this, we could all well be here until Labor Day,” said McMorris, who has headed his side at the bargaining table since acting commissioner Bud Selig left Thursday.

The union’s offer was for a 25 percent tax on the portion of payrolls above 133 percent of the average, a figure that in 1994 would have been $54.1 million. That would have affected just one team, the Detroit Tigers, who would have paid a tax of $663,633.

Management’s proposal, essentially formalizing some of the suggestions made last month by mediator W.J. Usery, was for a 50 percent tax on the portions of payrolls above the average, which was $40,695,856 last year. That would have affected 15 teams, with Detroit paying the most at $8,042,082.

Union head Donald Fehr said, “We repeatedly take steps in their direction and they repeatedly back away.”

“We were disappointed,” McMorris said. “I wish that it would have been more, but it isn’t. But at least we have a number out there and that’s something.”

The union’s proposal for a threshold was $5 million less than its unofficial offer made to Usery on Feb. 6. The owners’ previous offer, Feb. 1, asked for a 75 percent tax on the portion of payrolls between $35 million and $42 million, and a 100 percent tax on the amount above that.

At those levels, 19 teams would have paid a tax last year.

In related action, the National Labor Relations Board is expected to rule this week on the union’s unfair labor practice charge against owners.

Players say they would end the strike if the NLRB obtains an injunction from a federal judge that would force owners to restore the old work rules - including salary arbitration, which management wants to end.

Fan reaction varied

On the first full day of replacement exhibition baseball, fan reaction varied from confused to amused.

Small crowds showed up at most of the games, mostly curious to see what teams manned with anonymous players could do. Some were pleased. Some were not.

At Clearwater, Fla., Darlene Plummer demanded a refund from the Philadelphia Phillies for six tickets to Saturday’s game and missed a 6-2 victory over Cincinnati.

“Who wants to see these yahoos play?” she said.

With owner George Steinbrenner complaining over the quality of his replacements after two losses, the New York Yankees pulled out a 2-1 win over the New York Mets.

Unimpressed by replacement baseball, both teams’ local radio outlets refused to broadcast the game.

Strike affects M’s plans

The strike is interfering with the Seattle Mariners’ attempts to get public funding for a new ballpark.

“It’s not good,” Mariners chairman John Ellis said of the strike’s impact. “I was asked yesterday, ‘If you guys can’t make the right kind of settlement here, will building a stadium make any sense anyway?”’

Ellis testified Friday before the Washington Senate’s Ways and Means Committee on behalf of legislation that would fund 65 percent of the cost of a $250 million stadium with a retractable roof. Earlier last week, the state’s House Trade and Economic Development Committee rejected a similar bill.

“I thought not only was the bill dead, but the Mariners were gone,” Ellis said of the vote in the House.

He said he felt better after talking with senators.

Mariners 7, Padres 1

Before a small but noisy crowd of 1,184, the shape of the Mariners for the near future unfolded Saturday.

Fans seemed to take notice of players like shortstop Craig Bryant, who made some spectacular plays in the victory over San Diego.

“Some of these guys are playing pretty damn well,” Ellis said. “This guy Bryant, wow.”

Bryant, whose uncle, Clay Bryant, played for the Chicago Cubs from 1935-40, handled five chances flawlessly and threw out a runner at the plate. He and second baseman Shane Letterio have turned one double play in each of the first two games.

Average crowd last year at Peoria, Ariz., where the Mariners and Padres are co-tenants, was 6,876.

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