It will take a miracle. Some owners say that Fehr doesn't listen to them, refuses to negotiate and, instead of dealing with the issues, delivers sermons on the history of baseball labor relations. "I'll tell you in two words what's holding up this dispute: Don Fehr," says a source close to management. "The problem with Don is that he doesn't have a 'yes' gene." Fehr says that it's the owners who have refused to negotiate and that they have been intent for more than a year on imposing their salary cap and breaking the union. Since negotiations broke off and the salary cap was implemented, each side has filed a complaint with the NLRB accusing the other of failing to bargain in good faith. A ruling from the NLRB is not due until February at the earliest. Until then meaningful negotiations appear unlikely.
Will baseball's antitrust exemption be repealed by Congress?
It's a real possibility, now that the owners have imposed a salary cap and another season is in jeopardy. Here's a chance for Congress to act as savior, and if House leadership takes up the cause, repeal might get done before the end of January.
Both Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, who's about to take over as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and powerful New York Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan support repeal of the antitrust exemption, and with such bipartisan support, a bill repealing exemption should sail through the Senate. In the House, however, new Speaker Newt Gingrich and Henry Hyde, the Illinois Republican who will be chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, arc looking for bigger fish to fry—President Clinton, for example—and prospects for repeal in that body are less clear.
If the antitrust exemption is repealed, will the players go back to work?
Not necessarily. If the exemption were removed, the players would immediately seek an injunction in federal court against the owners' implementation of the salary cap. Then they would file an antitrust suit seeking treble damages dating to the start of the strike. The cases could be tied up in court for years, and the players have no intention of returning to work if it means giving up their right to strike, a demand the owners might make before allowing them to play. Still, the players say, repeal of the exemption alone might cause the owners to back away from their demand for a salary cap and thus increase the likelihood of a negotiated settlement.
"I've always been anti-involvement of government in our lives, but I couldn't think of a more appropriate time for the government to step in than now," says Van Slyke. "Then it would be over, we'd all be back in spring training. We have replacement senators and congressmen now, right? Well, it's time for them to do the right thing."
That goes for everybody in baseball, too.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]