Players see '95 openers in trouble


Catcher Matt Nokes said he thinks he'll have to wait a long time for his first game in an Orioles uniform, now that the negotiations between the owners and union have broken down again.

"In June, maybe," Nokes said yesterday, guessing at when a settlement will occur. "July or August, maybe. I think we're in for a long one."

Nokes had the most apocalyptic view of any of four Orioles who were contacted -- designated hitter Harold Baines, second baseman Bret Barberie and outfielder Jack Voigt. But others shared his opinion that Opening Day in 1995 is in trouble.

"It would be a shame not to start the season on time," said Barberie, who was acquired from the Florida Marlins in December. "It's just too bad we're not going to get something done on time.

"It's obvious it's a matter of compromising, and I don't know if both sides are being stubborn or one side is being stubborn, I'm not there at the meetings. But from watching the news, it seems like they disagree on everything."

Barberie said he is "behind the union 100 percent. Don Fehr is an intelligent man, and he knows what he's doing.

"Hopefully, pride is not getting in the way on either side."

Barberie, Baines and Nokes all agreed, to varying degrees, that the owners are now waiting for the union to collapse.

"It's obvious that's what they want to do," Barberie said. "It won't happen. If they were fair about it and sat down and got it resolved, that would be the ideal thing."

Baines said: "I think that's part of it. I don't think all the owners are motivated [by the idea of breaking the union]. Just a few. Obviously, Peter [Angelos] is not."

What it has come down to, Nokes said, is that the owners have miscalculated with their use of replacement players. "I don't know, but I think they now have to find a way to save face. I don't know what their motivations are for not hammering out a deal."

The Orioles players held a conference call Sunday night and discussed what occurred in the negotiations over the weekend. Nokes says he keeps up with the talks by calling the union, and Barberie follows the proceedings through the media.

No matter the source of their information, they all said the owners were guilty of bad-faith bargaining over the weekend.

"The players have consistently come up with ideas to address the issues that the owners want to address," Voigt said. "We give [the proposals] to them, and they walk away. The general feeling from the players is we try to do everything we can, and they continue to walk away."

How will the union react?

"I don't think we'll budge," Baines said.

And the players? As the season nears, will some members of the union start to cross the theoretical picket line?

"For some players," Baines said, "it depends on how much they're hurting for money. Hopefully, we won't get to that point."

Said Barberie: "I think we're holding together fine. I don't think that will be a problem."

Nokes was much more outspoken. "I can't see players crossing over," he said. "I can't imagine it. In my wildest dreams, I can't see it.

"Even if some do cross, I could see the pressure on those players getting so bad that they would go back on strike."

Barberie had this suggestion: "Why not get someone in the middle of this thing, make it fair for both sides and get it resolved?"

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