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Shhh ...

Cone hopes for quiet talks on labor agreement

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Posted: Monday February 19, 2001 8:52 PM

  David Cone Former union rep David Cone takes a breather Sunday during his first workout as a member of the Boston Red Sox. AP

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) -- David Cone understands secrecy may help baseball labor talks. He'd like the first public news to be that a new collective bargaining agreement has been reached.

"In general, it's a positive that things can possibly get done behind closed doors," the Boston Red Sox pitcher and players' union official said Monday. "Wouldn't it be nice if we could just suddenly wake up and hear an announcement that a deal is done?"

The current agreement expires Oct. 31, raising the possibility of baseball's ninth work stoppage.

The union hasn't imposed a gag order on players. But commissioner Bud Selig fined Red Sox chief executive officer John Harrington "several hundred thousand" dollars for remarks attributed to him in the Boston Globe, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In January 2000, owners gave Selig power to fine teams up to $2 million and individuals $500,000. TheTimes said the penalty was less than $1 million because Harrington convinced Selig the remarks were made before Selig told teams this January that he wanted all comments on labor to come from him and that he would fine violators.

Local Look

Owners Told to Zip It

In an effort to keep the focus on baseball, commissioner Bud Selig has ordered owners not to comment on the labor strife that is expected to occur following the 2001 season, says Ross Newhan of the the L.A. Times. Any owner violating that edict apparently will be fined $1 million.

Harrington, reached by telephone Monday, said he didn't know anything about the report. He refused additional comment. A message left for Selig was not returned.

Cone is a member of the union's executive subcommittee and is close to union head Donald Fehr.

"Don's never been the one to take the position, 'Don't say anything' or put a gag order on the union membership," Cone said. "He's never operated that way. I doubt he would begin now."

The last strike forced cancellation of the 1994 World Series and delayed the 1995 season. Cone would like an agreement on a new contract long before the current one expires.

"Now's the time for high hopes. Now's the time to get together and try to find some common ground and find a deal," he said. "The last thing we'd want to do is what has traditionally been done and that is wait 'til the last minute. Unfortunately, we know what happens in those situations. Things tend to blow up."

The role of Paul Beeston, baseball's chief operating officer, could be critical since he's respected by players and owners. Beeston is expected to lead management in negotiations.

"I think there's high hopes because of Paul Beeston playing a key role and trying to broker a deal," Cone said.

But he doesn't think the disclosure that a deal has been reached will be the next public word on the labor situation.

"A lot of people would find the chances of that happening very remote," Cone said, "but, nonetheless, I think it's good that they're trying to keep it quiet."

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