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More labor meetings, but key issues are avoided

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 18, 2002


NEW YORK -- A day after players set an Aug. 30 strike date, negotiators met twice on Saturday to discuss issues not related to the central economic differences.

NEW YORK -- A day after players set an Aug. 30 strike date, negotiators met twice on Saturday to discuss issues not related to the central economic differences.

The lawyers gathered twice at the commissioner's office for a total of about three hours, then recessed until Monday. The key issues of a luxury tax and revenue sharing were not discussed, and lawyers for both sides declined comment.

Owners want a luxury tax that would restrain player salaries, but they have proposed a far lower threshold and higher tax rate than the union will accept.

"I think a majority of owners, including me, would probably like to have even stronger cost-containment than we're talking about right now," Rangers owner Tom Hicks was quoted in Saturday's Dallas Morning News.

"If they do choose to go on strike, I'm confident ownership will not allow a repeat of 1994. We need to fix baseball."

Hicks' preference is for an agreement before the deadline. He doesn't want a repeat of the 232-day strike of 1994-95, which resulted in a luxury tax for the 1997, 1998 and 1999 seasons that most owners thought was ineffective. It had a tax rate of 34-35 percent, but the threshold was fixed to the midpoint of the fifth- and sixth-highest payrolls each season.

This time, owners have proposed a tax of 37.5-50 percent on the portions of payrolls above $102-million. Players offered a 15-30 percent tax on the portions above $130-million next year, with the threshold increasing by $10-million annually. The union also doesn't want a tax in the final year.

Hicks, who gave Alex Rodriguez a record $252-million, 10-year contract, said if there was a luxury tax, his team would not exceed the threshold.

"Every team in baseball that has any kind of business sense would try to manage its payroll to stay under that tax threshold," Hicks said. "There might be one or two that wouldn't, but that's a decision those teams have to make. Certainly, I can assure you, the Texas Rangers wouldn't be among them."

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