Major-league owners apparently will vote again Tuesday on the proposed labor settlement that was rejected two weeks ago, and there are indications that the outcome might be different this time.
Sources close to the negotiations indicate that there may be enough votes to approve the deal by the required 75 percent majority at a hastily arranged owners meeting in Chicago, though ownership power-broker Jerry Reinsdorf and an unlikely ally -- Orioles owner Peter Angelos -- still feel the settlement is not in the best interests of the industry.
Angelos, once considered a maverick who favored reconciliation with the Major League Baseball Players Association, was expected to vote in favor of the deal at the last owners meeting, but joined in the 18-12 majority that voted against ratification.
Since then, he has expressed strong reservations about the proposed settlement, because the stiff luxury tax that is the centerpiece of the agreement only extends through the first three years of the plan, and because there are limits on the number of teams that will be subject to the tax. He is expected to vote against the deal unless it is clear that it will pass by a wide margin.
No one is saying much about the possibility that the owners may approve the settlement proposal worked out by management negotiator Randy Levine and players association chief Donald Fehr, because baseball's ruling Executive Council has threatened to slap a $250,000 fine on any owner who breaks an internal gag order before the clubs meet Tuesday.
On Nov. 6, the owners rejected the tentative agreement, which called for a steep luxury tax on excess payroll over designated annual thresholds, approved revenue sharing and interleague play, and increased the minimum salary from $109,000 to $200,000 over the life of the agreement.
Though there have been no changes in the structure of the original settlement proposal, there is good reason to believe that the owners will vote to accept the deal this time, unless opposition arises outside of Reinsdorf's hard-line circle.
Reinsdorf's decision to sign free-agent outfielder Albert Belle to a record five-year, $55 million contract apparently has hurt his credibility with many of the owners who aligned themselves with him at the previous ownership meeting, but there still are owners who believe that no deal is better than the one on the table.
Angelos refused comment yesterday, but sources close to the negotiations say that he wants nothing to do with the deal and could be a pivotal vote to prevent a settlement.
Considered an outspoken outsider early in the labor dispute, Angelos has gained in prestige among his fellow owners, and also has become more convinced that the industry needs cost constraints to remain healthy. Enough so that he and Reinsdorf -- once considered bitter rivals -- find themselves on the same side of this internal dispute.
Pub Date: 11/23/96