PHOENIX -- The man in charge of the fate of Cal Ripken's consecutive-games streak, American League president Gene Budig, said Saturday that he is close to deciding, but hopes players and owners will spare him that unhappy job.
Choosing words carefully during a brief interview on Ripken, Budig said: "I continue to hope for a breakthrough in negotiations. Anyone who cares about the future of the game is hoping for one. I'm no exception."
But with no settlement in sight, Budig acknowledged the Ripken decision likely will fall to him.
He must decide whether Ripken's string of 2,009 games remains intact if the season opens with major-league players on strike. Ripken stands 121 shy of Lou Gehrig's all-time mark of 2,130 consecutive games.
Budig, in Arizona to visit spring-training camps, made it clear he does not take the responsibility lightly. Asked about making a decision certain to affect one of baseball's oldest records, the league president said: "I am certainly aware of its significance. I am weighing several options."
He frowned and added, "There are no perfect decisions."
Part of Budig's approach to figuring out the Ripken streak has been to consult many veteran baseball officials, none of whom he would identify Saturday.
Budig did say he has not discussed the matter with Ripken or his Baltimore lawyer, Ron Shapiro.
Some in baseball clearly are on Ripken's side, or at least on the side of allowing him to keep chasing Gehrig.
"I wouldn't do anything to jeopardize that streak," Oakland Athletics manager Tony La Russa said. "I'd rather not play [replacement] games and wait for the thing to get settled."
A decision on Ripken is expected after owners vote whether to begin the season with replacement players. That step is expected within about a week.