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ON STRIKE’S 11TH DAY, FEHR SLINGS SOME MUD

SHARE ON STRIKE’S 11TH DAY, FEHR SLINGS SOME MUD

If progress is too much to hope for in the baseball talks, mudslinging is always a fallback position.

There was no progress Monday as the walkout by players completed its 11th day. But union head Donald Fehr called management negotiator Richard Ravitch a "hatchet man" for owners who shed "crocodile tears" for laid-off workers.Federal mediators announced talks will resume Wednesday in the first face-to-face meeting between the bargaining teams since players struck Aug. 12. Fehr said he saw no evidence that there could be progress, and Boston Red Sox chief executive officer John Harrington said when owners get to the table they will be offering the same salary-cap proposal that caused baseball's eighth work stoppage since 1972.

"We assume that at the first meeting we'll get the management chorus of `Solidarity Forever' and `We Love Dick,' " Fehr said after meeting with Ravitch and the mediators for about 20 minutes to set this week's schedule.

Three owners were picked by the ruling executive council for management's 12-member pool: Jerry Reinsdorf of the Chicago White Sox, Jerry McMorris of the Colorado Rockies and Drayton McLane of the Houston Astros. Also in the group is Wendy Selig-Prieb, daughter of acting commissioner Bud Selig and the vice president-general counsel of the Milwaukee Brewers, the team her father owns.

Fehr, in his most testy demeanor since the strike began Aug. 12, launched into repeated attacks on Ravitch's credibility. He predicted owners would sing the "Hallelujah Chorus" at the bargaining table.

"The owners want to drastically lower player salaries," Fehr said. "Dick's the assigned hatchet man to go and get it done. Dick is not an independent figure here."

Ravitch, in baseball talks for the first time, shrugged off Fehr's comments.

"The last time I found name calling to be meaningful was when I was in grade school," Ravitch said. "I don't think it helps the situation."

Ravitch has said repeatedly he feels for the tens of thousands of workers laid off because of the players' strike, which has already forced cancellation of 141 games.

Fehr, pointing out that Ravitch is getting paid his $750,000 annual salary during the walkout while players and union officials are not getting paid, referred to "the crocodile tears Dick cries once in awhile for the people at the stadiums."

Fehr said nothing the union does makes a difference in the talks and insisted owners are on a preset schedule, believing that players will crack and accept a salary cap.

"The owners decided a long time ago they are on a clock," Fehr said. "And when the clock gets to the day they want to settle - whether it's this week, this month, next month, next year or 1996 - then they'll talk seriously. Up until then we can't expect them to. Unfortunately, all we can do is wait."

Harrington, who runs the Red Sox for the Jean R. Yawkey Trust, accompanied Ravitch to a news conference to speak for the bargaining team. He said while owners have different agendas, they all believe change is necessary. He also denied Fehr's charge.

"I wish we had it all mapped out as well as he thinks we've done," he said.

Harrington, head of the owners' expansion committee, said a long work stoppage may effect his group's consideration of adding teams for the 1998 season.

"It could. I hope it doesn't reach that point," he said.

Mediators will meet separately today with the delegations from both sides and Fehr and Ravitch are to appear on CNN tonight with Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

When the bargaining resumes, five or six members of the management negotiating pool will join Ravitch at the table - the first direct involvement by teams since talks began on Jan. 13, 1993.

Others in the pool are Atlanta Braves chairman Bill Bartholomay; Toronto Blue Jays president Paul Beeston; David Glass, who runs the Kansas City Royals for the estate of Ewing Kauffman; Atlanta Braves president Stan Kasten; Minnesota Twins general manager Andy MacPhail; Stuart Meyer, who resigned last week as president of the St. Louis Cardinals, and Philadelphia Phillies executive vice president David Montgomery.

All but Glass, who was delayed because of weather, met with Ravitch on Monday afternoon at the owners' law firm.