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Baseball owners' talk leaves players cold

The chief negotiator for baseball's owners told a group of about 70 players and top union officials Monday night why the owners want to change the game's economic structure.

The players came away less than impressed.

Richard Ravitch presented a general overview of why the owners want to adopt a system of revenue-sharing among themselves and a salary cap for the players.

"It was a good opening session," Ravitch said. "I tried to explain to them, the best I could, our objective in this collective bargaining _ to produce an economic system in baseball that will provide the owners with cost certainty, that we wanted the right to bargain for the aggregate costs of playing baseball, compensation of players and to achieve a system of competitive balance among the clubs."

Union chief Donald Fehr said players were frustrated they did not get more information.

"A lot of them felt they drove a very long distance to hear the opening of long and difficult negotiations and they didn't get very much," Fehr said. About the only thing the players left the Westshore Hyatt with after the nearly three-hour meeting, Fehr said, was a promise that the owners would provide them with the financial data the owners used to come up with the idea of the revenue-sharing and salary-cap proposal.

This was the first negotiating session since the Basic Agreement expired Dec. 31. Fehr and Ravitch had two meetings in January 1993, shortly after the owners voted to reopen the agreement a year early, but nothing came of the sessions. Talks were suspended when Ravitch decided to focus on getting the owners to share more revenues among themselves.

After months of negotiations, the owners approveda revenue-sharing plan. But that plan, which would have wealthier teams contribute money from things like local television contracts to struggling teams, will only take effect if the players agree to a salary cap.