Today marked a milestone of sorts for the baseball strike: It was the 131st day, matching the length of the 1994 season that ended when players walked out Aug. 12.

The player's union staff held its own meeting today, then met with federal mediator W.J. Usery. A joint meeting of the union and baseball owners was scheduled later in the day, not before 12:30 p.m.On Monday, there were no positive or negative signs to indicate whether this round of bargaining can end the longest work stoppage in the history of U.S. professional sports. The session was mostly a review and formal presentation of the ideas the union discussed with owners last Wednesday before talks stopped.

"We put numbers and words around it," union head Donald Fehr said after the 71/2-hour session ended before 4 p.m.

And there was decidedly little drama, even though the owners have approved a 12:01 a.m. deadline Friday for declaring an impasse and implementing a salary cap if an agreement isn't reached by then.

Despite the possibility of this threat, only one member of management's negotiating team attended the session: Philadelphia Phillies co-general partner Dave Montgomery. Lawyers Chuck O'Connor and Rob Manfred, whose role has steadily increased throughout the 23-month negotiation, also were on management's side of the table.

"The talks we had today were productive in the sense we had a healthy exchange on several issues," O'Connor said, answering only a pair of questions before leaving.

If players do make a new proposal on the central payroll tax issue, it probably won't be until Wednesday or Thursday. While Colorado Rockies chairman Jerry McMorris is scheduled to arrive today, the rest of management's bargaining team, including Boston Red Sox chief executive officer John Harrington, isn't due until Tuesday night or Wednesday.

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If the sides move closer on their tax ideas, acting commissioner Bud Selig says it's possible to move the twice-delayed deadline for imposing the cap. If there isn't progress, the ruling executive council will declare an impasse in bargaining and impose the cap, leading to a court fight and the possible use of replacement players next spring.

The central disagreement is over the payroll tax. Owners want a rate that continues to rise until the players' share of revenue drops from 58 percent to 50. Players want a tax only high enough to fund increased revenue-sharing for small-market clubs.

Union lawyers said the sides went over the differences on many areas Monday.

"It's always useful after a hiatus to review where you are," said Lauren Rich, the union's No. 3 official.

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