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Sources: Baseball strike averted

Fans with differing approaches: A girl pleads, her companion is fed up with the whole issue of the baseball strike.
Fans with differing approaches: A girl pleads, her companion is fed up with the whole issue of the baseball strike.  

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A baseball union source Friday indicated to CNN that a labor agreement has been reached and a strike has been averted. The source didn't elaborate, but the source confirmed that it "looks like" congratulations are in order.

An official announcement was expected at 1 p.m. EDT.

At about 4:15 a.m. -- after a brief meeting with union negotiators -- one member of the owners' negotiating team, when asked if a deal could be made to avert a strike, said: "We'll get it done."

With revenue sharing virtually finished and the two sides narrowing the gap on the luxury tax issue, the last hurdle appeared to be the termination date of the agreement.

If an agreement wasn't reached, big league baseball could have come to a stop Friday afternoon. The first game that would have been canceled would be the St. Louis Cardinals vs. the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The game was scheduled to begin at 2:20 p.m. CT (3:20 p.m. ET).

Sources close to the negotiations Thursday told CNN that there had been movement on the key sticking point between the two sides -- a luxury tax on teams with large payrolls that owners hope will slow escalation of players' salaries.

Luxury tax stumbling block

The union agreed to reduce the initial threshold for the luxury tax from $125 million to $118 million and extend it to the fourth year of the four-year contract, sources said. Players had initially proposed that the luxury tax end after three years.

Under the union's initial position, the luxury tax would only have applied to one team, the New York Yankees. Under its latest offer, three teams -- the Yankees, the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Dodgers -- would fall under the tax.

"We don't want a strike, but if something has to be done to further progress, then all the players are sticking together."
— Ray King, player representative

Owners had originally pushed for a luxury tax that would have applied to the eight teams with the highest payrolls, later retreating to six. An agreement could be reached if players accept a luxury tax structure that adds at least more team, bringing the total to four, sources told Olbermann.

Meanwhile, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said President Bush would be "furious" if a strike occurred, but he gave no indication the president would step in to head off a strike.

"This is America's national pastime, and I think baseball fans all across America expect the owners and players to resolve their differences," McClellan said.

If there had been a strike, it would be the ninth work stoppage since 1972. The last strike was in 1994, when players walked out and the season ended without a World Series for the first time since 1904.

Fan fallout

There were signs fans were already growing disenchanted with the labor dispute. One joke e-mail making the rounds urged fans to donate money to players, whose average salary is well over $1 million a year.

"For only $20,835 a month, about $694.50 a day (that's less than the cost of a large screen projection TV) you can help a MLB player remain economically viable during his time of need," it says.

At one Major League ballpark, a fan held up a sign that read: "If you strike, we strike forever."

Atlanta Braves pitcher Tom Glavine:
Atlanta Braves pitcher Tom Glavine: "You go as long as you can or as long as you have to."  

During the negotiation process, Tom Glavine, a pitcher for the Braves and the National League players' union representative, had said that when "significant progress" is being made, "then you go as long as you can or as long as you have to."

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig was in New York, but he had not taken part in the face-to-face negotiations at Major League Baseball headquarters.

Many players believe Selig's presence is helpful, but implied he should have come sooner.

"I am grateful and appreciative that the commissioner feels that 48 hours before another work stoppage, it's important enough for him to leave Milwaukee and go to New York," said New York Mets pitcher Al Leiter.

-- CNN Correspondents Josie Karp and Keith Olbermann contributed to this report.




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