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US Major League Baseball Players in Standoff With Team Owners - 2002-08-17

The U.S. Major League Baseball Players Association has set a strike date of August 30 as players struggle with team owners over how to divide the millions of dollars made each year in the game. Unless the two sides can reach some kind of agreement, baseball games will stop before the end of the month.

Three days of bargaining between the player's union and team owners produced only more disagreements rather than a deal so on Friday the players announced a strike date of August 30. The union's executive board made the decision after a morning conference call.

The players' union had held off on setting a date earlier this week after management officials suggested a few more days of bargaining.

But owners have moved little on the key economic issue of a luxury tax on high-payroll teams. Arizona Diamondbacks player representative Luis Gonzalez said that the players do not want a strike, but can not afford to sacrifice their futures.

"You look at our ballclub, we are in first place right now. We do not want to see anything stop. We have another opportunity to go out there and defend our World Series title. And that's what we want to do. But at the same time, we understand what's going on. And we would like to see something get done. It is just a matter of going out and trying to get a deal done," Mr. Gonzalez said.

The owners originally proposed a 50 per cent tax on the portions of payrolls over $98 million, then later moved up their threshold to $100 million. Owner's negotiator Robert Manfred said that he thought the two sides were closer to an agreement, not a strike.

"Quite frankly, we thought we made a proposal that would continue the process," Mr. Manfred said. "We did not think - did we think that they (the players) were going to jump up and down and say 'let me sign here?' Maybe not but we though it would continue the process."

After meeting twice Thursday, the sides didn't even bother to schedule a bargaining session for Friday, and people aligned with both union and management described the sides as far apart.

Should the strike happen, it would be the ninth work stoppage in Major League Baseball since 1972. The last players' strike was in 1994, when the post season and the World Series were both cancelled, a move that turned many fans sour on the game. There is a fear that a strike this year would be even more devastating.