A strike against the baseball strike?

The players of one small-market team have voted against authorizing a strike deadline.

Published July 29, 2002 5:35PM (EDT)

The players of an unidentified Major League Baseball team have voted against authorizing their union to set a strike deadline for its negotiations with the owners, sources close to the Players' Association speaking on condition of anonymity said Sunday.

The votes, conducted on a team-by-team basis as union executive director Donald Fehr has visited each team, constitute only the first stage of an actual strike, and have traditionally been considered a mere formality. After the union is authorized to set a deadline, a second player vote is required to officially authorize a strike.

In baseball's eight previous labor disputes, there has never been a negative vote reported by any team in either stage.

The sources refused to identify the team, its league or its division, and would confirm only that it was a "small-market franchise." Of baseball's poorer relations, the Oakland A's announced their vote to authorize the setting of a deadline July 18, and Pittsburgh Pirates' player representative Kevin Young said he and his teammates voted to authorize it last Friday.

For more than two weeks, executive director Fehr has been traveling the country, briefing teams and conducting votes. But the number of teams revealing their votes has seemed to many observers to be unusually slow this year. Nearly all the reporting on the strike-vote process to date has consisted of conflicting reports about whether Sept. 16 is the union's preferred deadline.

The lack of solidarity as a potential labor crisis looms is reportedly not limited to the players. The Arlington Heights Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago newspaper, reported July 25 that a "mid-market" owner had attacked commissioner Bud Selig for having told "thirty different (owners) thirty different things." The Herald's anonymous source said the owners were not unanimous about the looming strike, and charged that Selig's prohibition against owners talking to the media about the labor situation was briefly lifted, and then reinstated, to cover up discord.

"We're supposed to be unified?" the source asked. "That's laughable. Lift the gag order again, and you'll see how unified."

By Keith Olbermann

Salon columnist Keith Olbermann hosts the ABC Radio Network's "Speaking of Sports ... Speaking of Everything."

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