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HATCH OFFERS BILL TO RESTART BASEBALL TALKS

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Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is throwing major league baseball a curve, which he hopes will force some serious negotiations to end its strike.

He and Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, D-Ohio, introduced a bill Thursday that would allow players to sue owners for antitrust violations if owners decide to impose a salary cap as planned.Baseball is exempt from antitrust laws. On top of that, labor rules allow owners to impose new terms and conditions of employment - such as the salary cap that players oppose - once a bargaining impasse occurs.

"I am concerned that the unique combination of these two rules, which occurs in no other industry, is to invite delay and discourage prompt resolution of the pending labor dispute," Hatch said.

He said the bill should encourage real negotiations if owners want to avoid a lawsuit - and if both sides want to seek the best resolution possible without turning the matter over to courts.

"It would spur owners and players to resolve their dispute as soon as possible," Hatch said.

He added, "I urge baseball owners and players to engage in serious negotiations as soon as possible to resolve their dispute. The national pastime deserves no less. Baseball fans deserve no less."

The conservative Hatch, an avid sports fan, joins ultraliberal Metzenbaum on the bill, although they have probably agreed on few other labor bills ever.