WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- The Major League Baseball Players Association is winning the paper chase, but it remains to be seen whether a couple of unfavorable government rulings will discourage the owners from declaring an impasse in baseball's prolonged labor dispute. The National Labor Relations Board notified management's Player Relations Committee on Friday that it would not pursue an unfair labor practice complaint against major-leaguers Bobby Bonilla and John Franco for allegedly threatening players with violence if they cross union picket lines. PRC attorney Louis Melendez indicated that the owners will appeal the decision. The ruling came just days after the NLRB ruled in favor of the union and issued a pair of complaints against the owners for withholding $7.8 million in All-Star Game revenues that traditionally have gone into the players' health and benefits fund. That decision was far more significant, but an NLRB complaint against the tough-talking players would have -- at the very least -- provided a rare public relations victory for the owners. Instead, they find themselves less than 48 hours away from another self-imposed implementation deadline. Labor talks continued yesterday at the Capital Hilton, and a late-night meeting between high-ranking union officials and Colorado Rockies owner Jerry McMorris led to speculation that the negotiations were moving forward, but there was no hard evidence that any progress had been made. If nothing changes, the ownership bargaining committee is expected to declare an impasse on Friday and implement the modified salary cap proposal that was presented to the players on Nov. 17. Will they go through with it? That is the $1 billion question. The VTC owners set two previous implementation deadlines, but let both of them pass in the interest of keeping the negotiations alive. There is room to wonder whether they still have confidence that an impasse declaration will survive NLRB scrutiny. "I think that there are more and more people who question the wisdom of the replacement aspect of their strategy," said MLBPA associate general counsel Eugene Orza, "and there are more and more people who are uncomfortable with their salary cap idea. There also are legitimate concerns for the propriety of declaring an impasse when there has been movement." The ramifications of an impasse declaration were discussed at Thursday's ownership meeting in Chicago, where Orioles owner Peter Angelos (a longtime labor lawyer) and an attorney for New York Mets CEO Fred Wilpon both cautioned the owners that they could be courting financial disaster. That may explain why management delayed implementation for one more week. Negotiations resumed on Monday with a joint meeting in which the union presented the owners with another counterproposal, but there apparently were no face-to-face negotiations yesterday. Sources said that most of the day was devoted to technical meetings that focused not on the issues separating the two sides but on finding the process "that will give us the greatest likelihood of finding some common ground." There has been speculation that the owners are just posturing and playing for time in an attempt to improve their position with the NLRB after implementation, but McMorris said that he has come to Washington to get something done. " 'It's time to make a deal," said McMorris, who arrived in Washington yesterday. "We need to get this behind us." McMorris has joined Philadelphia Phillies executive vice president David Montgomery, who was the point man in Monday's negotiations. The two have been empowered to make a deal if they can persuade the union to make a significant concession on the issue of cost control. It is not clear whether the two NLRB setbacks have softened ownership's hard-line position. Management attorneys insist that the effect of last week's pension complaint will be minimal and were critical of the board's decision not to pursue the charge against Franco and Bonilla. The NLRB informed the owners that a complaint would not be filed because the union had publicly repudiated the comments. The PRC countered that other players -- most notably Atlanta Braves third baseman Terry Pendleton -- have made similar comments since the charge was filed. "The error in the NLRB's conclusion is apparent as several players have continued to make threats of violence despite the purported repudiation by the Players," Menendez said in the PRC's prepared statement.