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PLAYERS, OWNERS FINALLY MEET BUT CAN’T AGREE

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Talking isn't changing anything for baseball players and owners.

With the strike in its 14th day, it still seems there's little chance of an agreement any time soon."Maybe one of these days, we'll be able to report some progress," union head Donald Fehr said after talks resumed for the first time since the strike began Aug. 12. "That day is not today."

Twelve management representatives and 21 players faced each other across a bargaining table in a room that, including all the lawyers, contained 55 people. The pair of two-hour sessions consisted of speeches, not give and take.

Talks were to resume today, with management negotiator Richard Ravitch continuing to argue for a salary cap.

"We did not really get to the issue of cost certainty," Ravitch said, adding: "I don't think you can expect any instant change in this."

As the number of canceled games reached 169, players released a report by Stanford economics professor Roger Noll, who examined baseball finances for the union and concluded "the claim of widespread disaster in the sport is pure fiction."

According to the report, Noll said teams underestimated revenue by as much as $140 million in 1994. However, his statement that revenue is increasing faster than salaries is true only for 1992-93. From 1989-93, player salaries doubled while revenue increased 50 percent.

John Harrington, chief executive officer of the Boston Red Sox, called it a "very biased report" that was a "sideshow and a distraction."

There was plenty of that in Wednesday's session. Inside the room, 21 players and 12 management representatives joined their lawyers around a large, U-shaped table, with four officials from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service at one end.

Outside the room unfolded a bizarre spectacle that included 14 camera crews, about 100 reporters, fans, two player agents, comic Jackie Mason and divorce lawyer Raoul Felder.

"This is my specialty," said Felder, who was passing through. "Greed. Avarice. Self-interest."

Many fans have said these negotiations are a joke, and Mason proved them right. "I think these people have no place else to go in the morning," he said of the lawyers. "It keeps them busy."

Players had been insisting for months that owners come to the table. Owners refused until federal mediators entered the talks the day after the strike began.

"It's always better to have it rougher and blunter than have it covered up with a lot of polish," Fehr said.

In the morning session, three owners and nine team representatives gave speeches from two to 12 minutes in length, all insisting a salary cap is necessary to save the game from financial ruin. In the afternoon, players and their lawyers gave speeches insisting that baseball is a booming business.

Owners then caucused among themselves, and about two hours later mediators said the talks will resume Thursday.