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What Will Happen to Baseball?

Aired August 30, 2002 - 12:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for being with us everyone. We're going to get right to baseball, of course. That's what we're talking about, the strike zone. Are they going to play? Are they not going to play? Has a deal been reached? Many questions to ask.
Our Josie Karp has, of course, been following this for many, many hours. She is hanging in there with bags in her eyes and everything.

Josie -- are you all right?

JOSIE KARP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can see the bags under my eyes? I have to cover those up.

PHILLIPS: I heard a rumor you didn't even sleep.

KARP: Yes, we were out on the street most of the night.

But the union negotiators, the players' negotiators, those who work for the union, and the club negotiators, have been meeting all morning long. That meeting just broke up.

A union source has indicated at 1:00 Eastern Time, there's going to be a joint press conference, and at that time, the deal will be done, and they'll be able to announce that for the first time since this collective bargaining process began in baseball, they have been able to avert some sort of work stoppage.

Again, before they went into this final meeting, what sources told us, the sticking points involved the fourth year of the luxury tax and the termination date of the agreement. Some sort of trade was on the table, and if that trade, indeed, went through, it means there won't be a luxury tax in the fourth year of the agreement, that the agreement will end around, near or on October 31 of the fourth year.

So both sides are going to come out and talk at 1:00. They have been talking all morning about who in this situation wins, really because of the increased revenue sharing and the fact that union didn't want a luxury tax. There are ways you can portray this as an owner victory.

But there's also another way to look at it. The fact that since they've never done this before, it can be looked at as a victory for both sides. They can finally say, hey, we did this, and we didn't have to stop work to do it.

PHILLIPS: You know, Josie, a lot of people have been asking when all is said and done, we'll all be created equal, a lot of teams that don't get as much money as another team. Will the richer teams help out the teams that are struggling a little bit more? What's the talk about that? When this is all over with, are all of the teams going to be OK?

KARP: Well, there is some question about financial solvency, things like that, that are going to continue. But in terms of the competitive balance, that's what the owners really hung their hat on throughout these entire negotiations. They said that everything was aimed at achieving competitive balance.

And if throughout this agreement, the owners have their way, they are going to say, yes, things are going to get better, and all different teams at all different levels are going to be able to compete.

PHILLIPS: All right, Josie, of course, we're going to ask you to continue to stand by. You are doing such a great job.

We're going to bring in our Jeff Flock. He's been talking to the fans.

Jeff -- what do the fans have to say?

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'll tell you, we've got some happy people. They are just getting the first word of it now. Is it good news?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yea, good news. We're excited.

FLOCK: And you came from...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We flew in last night, yes.

FLOCK: ... from Nebraska?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, we didn't think we were going to be able to go, but it sounds like we we're going to get to go.

FLOCK: Did you have any doubt?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did! I really didn't think we were going to get to go. I'm so excited! We haven't to a game for about four years.

FLOCK: OK, well, maybe there will be games to come again. Happy news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure, it's fantastic. Me and my friend, Frank (ph), my brother, everybody, we came from New Jersey, a 13-hour road trip, a long trip to come to see a canceled game. But we're all glad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirteen hours in a car.

FLOCK: You were sweating this out. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, we -- forget about it. We were all looking at ESPN every minute, every chance we got, and we're happy that it's on. We hope it's on, so.

FLOCK: Good deal.

And you told me -- thanks, guys, we appreciate it.

You know, you told me you just came out to ballpark. You don't have tickets or anything. You just wanted to get the latest word.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I just, you know, figured it would an interesting place to be today, and you know, everything going on. And I mean, strike or no strike, baseball has still got a lot of problems it needs to fix, but as long as they play, you know, I'm happy.

FLOCK: Very good. Thank you, sir, I appreciate it.

I want to take you real quick, I've got one more guy I want to talk to, but let's take a shot over at the players' lot. We've been watching that parking lot all morning, waiting for any signs of any players. We have seen the Cubs manager attend so far, but no players thus far. But we're hearing good news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it's great news.

FLOCK: You bought your tickets when?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got them at the beginning of the season, Cardinal-Cub rivalry, you can't hardly miss it. It would have been a shame, if they couldn't have made it today.

FLOCK: I was going to say, if there had been a strike...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it would have been horrible. It probably would have turned me off to baseball for a long time, so.

FLOCK: But you've got a smile.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it's great, thanks.

FLOCK: All right.

As you can see, as you might expect, some happy folks out here on this first blush of news that perhaps there will be baseball at Wrigley Field. A lot of people on their way to ballpark, and we will, of course, continue to watch that parking lot and let you know when the players, themselves, arrive.

Back to you.

PHILLIPS: Jeff, that gentleman you just talked to made a good point, you know, still said he is going to sort of have a bad taste in his mouth. I mean, what's the feeling there, whether players get out on the field or not? Do you think a number of these fans will hold some resentment? FLOCK: You know, baseball has been so resilient in the past, and this would now be the first time -- if, in fact, this is all true, this would be the first time in anyone's memory that they have been able to reach an agreement without going on strike. So that's got be a positive thing.

If it was resilient and lasted through the worst of this in the past, I've got to believe it's going to last through this white- knuckle ride that apparently has ended up fairly happily.

PHILLIPS: All right, our Jeff Flock keeping an eye on if the players, indeed, come out of there or not. We'll be watching what's happening at Wrigley Field.

Just moments ago, though, we did have video brought to us by our Boston affiliate of the Boston Red Sox players coming out and getting on the bus, presumably heading to their game to play Cleveland. Take that as a sign. Is that good news? Well, they are heading to the ball field, and previously, union members were telling players, don't head to the ballparks. So this could be a good sign that possibly a deal definitely has been reached in some way.

All right, let's talk with Mel Antonen -- let's bring Mel in -- with "USA TODAY," and talk about all of the new developments here.

Mel, what do you think? We see some players coming out. We don't see some players coming out, like over at Wrigley. What's your take?

MEL ANTONEN, "USA TODAY": Well, my take is that they've got it done, and it couldn't be any better news than in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Minnesota. The Twins were the feel-good story -- are the feel- good story of the baseball season, and a lot of fans were disappointed. But this is going to be unbelievable news in Minnesota that the Twins can continue their dream season and go toward the playoffs.

PHILLIPS: Let's talk about that. Let's talk a little bit more about this feel-good story. We haven't really talked a lot about the Twins in the midst of all of the details of these talks going on where Josie Karp is.

ANTONEN: Well, the Twins, you know, are a small-market team that have had their financial problems in the last 10 years. They won the World Series in '91, they had a winning season in '92, but they have been pretty lousy since then. And they have had ownership problems, they've had stadium problems, they've had declining attendance problems, they've had every problem. They've had even contraction problems. Last year, Bud Selig was going to contract the team.

So here they are in first place in the American League Central, driving toward the playoffs. They are pretty much a home-grown team, only two free agents on the team. They are the underdog story. Everybody should love the Minnesota Twins, and the fact that they -- if this agreement is true, if the news is true out of New York, then they're going to continue to play baseball. And let me tell you, when the Metrodome is full of fans, it's one of the most exciting places to be. So it's really good news for Minnesota.

PHILLIPS: So you -- Mel, you think, though, when this is all said and done, all will be created equally -- New York Yankees, one of richest teams, you mentioned the Minnesota Twins, one of the teams that is struggling with regard to money. Could this deal help these, I guess, poorer teams survive and do OK?

ANTONEN: I think it's going to help them, but it's a myth to say that because of this agreement and because of the luxury tax that they agreed to, it's a myth to say that automatically, teams like Kansas City and Detroit and Cincinnati, are automatically going to be competitive with the big teams, with the big-money teams.

Money is important to a successful baseball team, but it's not the only ingredient. You've got to have good draft choices, you've got to have good pitching, good chemistry -- a long list of variables go in to making a good baseball team.

The Minnesota Twins drafted well, they built their team together. The question for the Twins is: Will they be able to keep this team together in the long run? A new labor agreement might help that come true, but it's a myth to say, automatically now, there's going to be three or four poor teams challenging the New York Yankees. That's not going to happen, but it's going to help a little bit.

PHILLIPS: What do you see for Minor League Baseball?

ANTONEN: Pardon me?

PHILLIPS: The Minor Leagues?

ANTONEN: Well, the Minor League Baseball is very, very healthy, 38 million fans attended Minor League games last year. There are 160 Minor League teams in the U.S., and 16 of those teams last year outdrew the Montreal Expos in the Big League.

So there is excitement in the Minor Leagues, and Minor League Baseball is a tremendous deal.

In Minor League Baseball, they take care of the fan first -- cheap tickets, free parking, very fan-friendly, very family-oriented atmosphere. In Major League Baseball, if they want to fix their public relations with their fans, they could learn from Minor League Baseball and how well they take care of fans.

PHILLIPS: Point well taken. Mel Antonen with "USA TODAY," we're going to ask you to stand by.

We've got some new developments back in Chicago, where our Jeff Flock is.

Jeff -- what do you know?

FLOCK: Yes, Kyra, I just ran down. I missed -- it appeared to be one of the players arriving just a short time ago. We're back here at the players' lot. We expected if, in fact, there is a settlement that the Cubs players will begin to arrive here, because we're ticking down, we're coming up on three hours to game time.

Also, I don't know if we are able to see it from our other camera that is up by the Cubby Bear Lounge, there is a ticker that runs across that, and perhaps you can see. I can see it from my naked-eyed perspective. "Major League Baseball players and owners reach a deal, no strike," has been flashing up on that ticker for the last several moments or so.

And perhaps you see out here -- Bruce, I don't if you're able to pan off to the left -- but a lot of folks obviously eager to talk to ballplayers. You see the TV folks out here, eager to get the first reaction from a real-live ballplayer. And this ought to be the place to do it, because, as we said, if, in fact, there's going to be baseball today -- which it now sounds like there will be -- it does appear that this will be the first place they'll be arriving. And I was looking to see if I saw that car of the next player arriving, but I don't see it right now.

So if we get anybody, we'll let you know -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, Jeff Flock, right on top of it. We appreciate that -- all right, Jeff.

Let's bring Mel Antonen with "USA TODAY" back in here to talk a little bit more about what's going on.

Mel, I've got a question for you. September 11, when baseball resumed after that dreadful day last year, it was a big deal for America. Now, we're coming up on the anniversary of September 11, and this is happening. Do you think it's disrespectful?

ANTONEN: Well, I think it was disrespectful, if baseball had been on strike and had been fighting labor problems, not just for the 9/11, but just because of the perspective issue. There's a lot financial problems, there's a lot of economic issues in the country. A lot people are being laid off, and it would have been disrespectful if baseball had been on strike on 9/11.

Baseball is a distraction. It can be very important to taking people's minds off their trouble. So it was important last year to play baseball after 9/11.

So, you know, the opposite now, if they had not been playing, it would have been terribly disrespectful. Baseball is important for that reason. It takes -- it gives people a diversion, a chance to forget about their problems for a few hours.

PHILLIPS: But then, within that, that is so true, and that's how folks felt after September 11, and they were so excited about baseball resuming. But then, you have this issue of money, and it's sort of ironic, because during September 11 when that happened, there was so much talk about how much money firefighters made, how much money police officers made, that they were so underpaid. And now, you sort of have this -- I don't know -- a war of evils and a war of all- American things we don't want to live without.

What's your take on that?

ANTONEN: Well, the firefighters and the policemen and all of the people that worked at 9/11 and did all of those heroic things, you know, they are the people that aren't paid enough. They are the people that aren't appreciated enough.

And so, when millionaire baseball players go on strike, it sets a bad perception. All of the fans want, and all of those workers down in New York ever wanted, was for them to appreciate what they had and to play baseball and just forget -- don't be complaining about a $2 or $3 million salary. That's all those workers said. They never said we're getting ripped off, it's not fair. They just said be appreciative of what you have.

And I think, now, the players are finally getting that a little bit. The fact that the players and the owners could work out this agreement -- work out this agreement without a strike, I think that shows that. There is still a lot of fans and a lot of people angry at the unrest and of the uncertainty that was caused this summer, but at least it's a step in the right direction.

And again, going back to New York, all they were saying is, appreciate what you have, don't complain. And if the players would just play and take that attitude, they would be much better off.

PHILLIPS: Do you think -- Mel, do you think baseball players should get paid so much money?

ANTONEN: Well, it's a free-market system. Yes, they should get paid what they want or what they can get. Anybody would.

You know this isn't so much an issue about the players wanting more money. The players are saying it's the freedom to make as much money as we can. They want a free-market system that everybody wants.

So you know, is it wrong to pay players millions and millions of dollars? Maybe. I mean, there is some questions about our priorities. But the fact is, if you look at it from an economic standpoint or a free-market system, it's perfectly fine. But from a moral issue, you know, you've got to wonder -- with teachers and firefighters and all of that type of stuff, you've got to wonder sometimes if our perspective is skewed.

PHILLIPS: Mel Antonen, "USA TODAY," great insight. We ask you to stick with us as we continue our breaking news coverage here, as we believe that a deal has been reached within this possible baseball strike.

We're going to go back to Chicago, where our Jeff Flock is standing by, seeing if he can spot any players in uniform, out of uniform. Are they going to play?

What's going on -- Jeff?

FLOCK: Not in uniform yet, Kyra. Maybe you can see. This is where the players would enter. This is where they drive their cars through, and then get themselves valet parked here. Maybe you see the famous City of Chicago Fire Department station back there. Of course, they catch balls back there every once in a while. And off to the right of them, this is, of course, the great rooftops that everybody comes -- and we've heard so much about -- to watch the game, kind of a knot-hole of kids up there on the rooftop watching Cubs baseball, not for free, because now, you've got to pay to get up on top of the rooftops.

At this point, since we last talked with you, we have not seen any more players arrive. But we've got folks out here.

Do you hang out here and wait for players by the entrance?


FLOCK: And it looks like you've got their cards. Show me what you've got there. You've got their cards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I've got about everybody on the team here, and some of the coaches, even Ron Santo in here.

FLOCK: And you hope to get an autograph. And today, it looks like maybe you're going to get an autograph.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I just heard the good news, and I'm very thankful for that. I made a long trip here to see a game, and I'm happy they all came to their senses and decided to play ball.

FLOCK: Did you have doubt?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I did. You know, the way it's been the last eight, nine years, in '94, no World Series, there's been a couple of strike stoppages since then. And, yes, I did have doubt. It's all about the money with these guys, unfortunately -- the owner and players.

FLOCK: Can we see these cards, by the way, really quick?


FLOCK: Because you really personify somebody who loves baseball.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do, I do love baseball.

FLOCK: And go ahead and hold them up for me. Would you hold those up, so my man here can see?


FLOCK: And you know, there's the sense that baseball isn't like it was, when you see some of those old stars there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you know, there's a guy like Bobby Hill here, and he's the future of the Cubs, maybe. You know, a guy like Fred McGriff that's probably a Hall of Famer, maybe.

FLOCK: You know, I may have a player here. I'm going to pause you right quick.

Bruce, I'm going to ask you spin around. I was going to say, maybe you'll get an autograph here before you're done. It appears one of the players now arriving.

Bruce, I don't know if you are able to see to the back of that pickup there -- and bear with us there. I'm trying to see who that is, whether that -- he's got his back to me, so I'm not going to see exactly who that is.

And let's see what else we've got going on here. I may -- while I was yammering, I may be missing somebody here.

Go ahead, Bruce, and let's listen in to this gentleman.

BOBBY HILL, CHICAGO CUBS: ... basically it's a waiting game.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you really think you were going to be able to play baseball today? Did you think it was going to get done?

HILL: You know, I did. I just -- you know, a lot of us thought it was going to come down to the last minute, which it did. And you know, -- but it's good that, you know, the game can go on now. We can go play the game that, you know, everyone would like to come watch. And you know, we can move on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think there is still some PR damage from a fan standpoint?

HILL: You know, it might be. But you know what? I think, you know, being the first game played, you know, on the day of the strike, and the game is going to go ahead and be played, you know, I don't think it's going to be that much damage. But you know, the main standpoint is we're going to go play again and, you know, the fans didn't want us to strike and the players didn't want to strike. And you know, neither of that happened, so you know, it's good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you told that this game is going to start a little bit later than it was supposed to?

HILL: I have no idea. You know, they just told us get to the park and, you know, we're here now. We'll find out when we get in there.


FLOCK: Bobby, how did you get the word, if I can ask you?

HILL: Just players were calling everybody else and...

FLOCK: Passed the word that way.

HILL: ... and passing the word that way.

FLOCK: What has this been like? This is -- you are a rookie this season. You are very excited to be in the Major Leagues? What's this experience been for you?

HILL: Oh, it's good for me, you know, and especially for the September call-ups, you know, and rest of the guys who have a chance to come up here. And, you know, it allows them to, you know, go ahead and experience, you know, what I experienced this year and for that, you that know. And you know, it's more about the fans, though, and everything else like that, and you know, to be able to play and to finish the season out and hopefully finish out on a good note.

FLOCK: Can you can believe how close it came?

HILL: Yes, you know, everyone -- you know for myself, I really didn't know what was going on. And -- but you know, everyone was saying it was going to down to the bottom, and, you know, what you did. You know, but you look at this point, you know, it's done and it's over with, and you know, now we can play.

FLOCK: A happy man.

HILL: Exactly.

FLOCK: Bobby Hill, I appreciate it. Thanks very much for the time.

Bobby Hill, second baseman of the future for the Chicago Cubs, and one of the first back here, as befits a young player, a rookie, one of first back at the ballpark.

And I think maybe we see -- Bruce, I don't know if we're seeing more people coming on. And I don't know if I can make out exactly who this is, but we'll see if we can maybe continue to get some reaction here from ballplayers. At least if Bobby Bill is any indication, pretty happy to be making their way to ballpark today. I'm peering in here, too, to see if I can see who that is.

PHILLIPS: Jeff, can you hear me OK?

FLOCK: Yes, I can hear you fine, sure.

PHILLIPS: All right, as you're kind of -- you let me know once you find out who that is or if you can get up there in the window and talk to another -- oh, here you go. You'll probably get a chance right here, possibly.

I'm curious...

FLOCK: We're going to try our damnest.

PHILLIPS: Yes. Now as you talked to Bobby Hill -- actually I'm going to let you try and go for this -- no, not going to be able to get close.

FLOCK: No, I'm sorry, I'm going to miss this one.

PHILLIPS: That's all right.

FLOCK: Sorry.

PHILLIPS: You know what? Bobby Hill, a rookie, a rookie second baseman. Do you think there's a different attitude? Bobby seemed pretty excited about getting back out there and wanting to play. He seemed to have a very -- how do I say it -- humble attitude -- there you go -- compared to maybe some of big-dollar players.

FLOCK: Oh, exactly.

PHILLIPS: Do you to think there is kind of a difference in attitude? Do you think people like Bobby Hill are much more eager to get out and play and get all of this behind him?

FLOCK: Well, it's like in any other line of work, I suppose, somebody who is coming up is obviously going to be more eager and have that thirst that perhaps somebody who has been around, a veteran, may not have.

But I think the Major League Baseball Players Association realized they had a real education job with the younger player. They did conference calls that were largely for the young players to make sure that they were schooled in the reasons for this strike, so that they knew why they were doing what they were doing, because obviously any time they were to break ranks, it could be a major disaster.

The strength all these years -- and pardon me, as I go and see if I can't find another gentleman who is -- it sounds like a settlement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When did you get word?

ROOSEVELT BROWN, CHICAGO CUBS: I live right around the street, so it didn't take long.

FLOCK: How did you get the word?

BROWN: News.

FLOCK: Oh, really?

BROWN: Yes, I was looking at the whole thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are your feelings now? It had to be touch-and-go for quite some time.

BROWN: Yes, I'm glad it's done. I mean, now we can move on and start playing baseball and get the World Series in and maybe start winning around here, too.

FLOCK: This got awful close.

BROWN: Yes, it was close. It was close. I was about to make my flight arrangements.

FLOCK: To go home?

BROWN: Yes, to go home. FLOCK: Really?

BROWN: But we ended up getting it done, so I'm glad and I'm happy to be here.

FLOCK: So you were all pretty solid. If they had said -- if Don Fehr had said, through his representatives, that there was going to be a strike, there was no breaking in the ranks?

BROWN: No, we couldn't. We had to stay strong, but we got it done. Everybody is shaking hands now, it's done and over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you do the last 24 hours? Did you stay up and watch like others were doing?

BROWN: No, I slept. I slept.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you worried at all about today?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you worried at all about today?

BROWN: No, I had a feeling that we were going to get it done. I mean, from having the meetings here, we was pretty close. I had -- I was pretty optimistic.

FLOCK: Thanks, Roosevelt.


BROWN: Sure.

FLOCK: Super. Roosevelt Brown, one of the Cubs outfielders.

And it looks like we've got more people coming through, as we speak, right here. So, I'm not sure where the folks with me are, but we've got another -- it looks like another player about to arrive.

And it is interesting to see, and just picking up on your point, Kyra, obviously another young player, Roosevelt Brown, who, you know, doesn't see a lot action, eager to play, you know, he felt that they were solid. But, you know, young players, in terms of their knowledge of this situation, a lot it came watching folks like us explaining the issues of the strike as well.

PHILLIPS: And as they're...

FLOCK: Let's see who we've go there. I'm not sure.

PHILLIPS: OK, as they are...

FLOCK: OK, go ahead, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: It looks like as they are pulling up -- is this sort of a special treatment? They've got folks to valet their cars, so that they don't have to deal with media?

FLOCK: I have seen people do that in the past, not necessarily for the likes of Bobby Hill and Roosevelt Brown. I mean, if you're a -- you know, if you're a Sammy Sosa, you know, you get some treatment. But it looks like everybody is getting it today, so I'm not sure how odd that is.

PHILLIPS: All right, Jeff...

FLOCK: I'll tell you, Fred Mitchell is here. Hey, I know, I've got Fred Mitchell of the "Chicago Tribune" here.


FLOCK: Hey. I just noticed the players all get this valet treatment today. Is that special for today, or is that standard operating...

MITCHELL: No, that's pretty standard.

FLOCK: It's pretty standard.

MITCHELL: Yes, but it really comes in handy on a day like today.

FLOCK: You were on CNN earlier this morning, and hopeful, expressing hope. How this is all now falling out, is it surprising you at all?

MITCHELL: No, it's not surprising me. I thought they would set a strike date, you know, and use that as their trump card, so to speak. But I was very confident that they would resolve all of their differences.

FLOCK: Fred Mitchell has been covering sports in Chicago, for how many years?

MITCHELL: Twenty-eight years.

FLOCK: Twenty-eight years. You've seen all of these strikes in the past. This is the first time they've gotten through it, apparently, without there being a strike.

MITCHELL: Right. And the whole atmosphere throughout this negotiation was much less contentious than the previous negotiations. So that was the main reason for my hopefulness that they would resolve this.

FLOCK: Fred, I appreciate it. Thanks very much -- appreciate your insight, as always. Fred Mitchell of the "Chicago Tribune," as he said, covering these things for 28 years.

And now, we've got a little piece of history, which is the first time that there has been a settlement without having to go the strike route. Everyone is pretty happy about that -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: So I've got a question. Can you get back over there by Fred for a minute, Jeff?

FLOCK: Yes, I'll try to stick one...

PHILLIPS: Is he still available?

FLOCK: ... stick one in his ear.

PHILLIPS: Are you eyeballing the players, too? I am curious...

FLOCK: I am.

PHILLIPS: OK. As you're eyeballing...

FLOCK: Yes, go ahead, go ahead.

PHILLIPS: ... ask Fred a question for me.

FLOCK: I'll eyeball and you talk, and I'll listen.

PHILLIPS: All right, all right, perfect. He has been covering, you know, ball for 28 years. I want to know what he -- over those 28 years, the difference between what is happening right now and strikes in the past, or maybe even a little more general.

FLOCK: That's a great question.

PHILLIPS: Let's get a little historic here. Baseball 28 years ago vs. right now. I mean, is he disheartened in any way, or is he sort of, oh, this is the way it goes, this is how money has influenced baseball?

FLOCK: That is a great question, and you know, Fred is going to indulge us one more time.

For your perspective, in terms of what you have seen in terms of development over the years of this, I mean, you have seen the Curt Flood, you have watched the emergence of the Players Association to such a powerful union. How do you read all of that, and how do you put that in perspective?

MITCHELL: Well, you know, we're seeing perhaps a gradual shift in power from the ownership to the players themselves, and obviously Curt Flood was the pioneer in terms of ushering in free agency and giving players the flexibility to go to other teams and make money in a free-enterprise system. And this is continuing, and it is -- you know, it has continued out of whack.

FLOCK: Is it out of balance...

MITCHELL: Yes, absolutely.

FLOCK: ... the other way?

MITCHELL: Absolutely. There needs to be some checks-and-balance system put in, because the salaries are too exorbitant, and the money coming in is not justifying it. The fans aren't buying it, shall we say. So at some point, something is going to have to be done.

FLOCK: And you have watched sympathy -- in past strikes, sympathy for the players be pretty clear on the part of the fans. This time, I didn't really detect a lot of sympathy on either side.

MITCHELL: No, it's very difficult for anybody -- any, you know, common workers, shall we say, to relate to billionaire owners and multimillion dollar-a-year players.

You know, often the player is castigated, because his salaries are made so very public, and we don't know, you know, the millions dollars that the owners are making.

FLOCK: The owners are making, right.

MITCHELL: So -- but now...

FLOCK: So your paper owns this baseball team?

MITCHELL: That's right, Tribune Company actually owns...

FLOCK: Right.

MITCHELL: ... which owns the paper and many other -- but, yes, there's an interest there by the Cubs and by the Tribune Company. But we don't cross that line.

FLOCK: I hear that, and we know that, so -- and it is interesting to see how this one has played out differently than past years.

MITCHELL: It is. And I got a feeling early on that the players, at least, were very cognizant of the public relations aspect of this, and the fans' involvement, and how they would react to all of this.

FLOCK: Fred, again, I appreciate the perspective. We'll let you go back to waiting for these guys.

OK, Kyra.

And you know what? I hear one more thing. I'll just tell you. Bruce, you can't see him. I bet you can't see him. See the guy in the blue down there? That is a guy some Cubs fans may know as Ronnie Woo. That is Ronnie Woo down there, isn't it? I was going to say. Maybe you can hear...

PHILLIPS: What's he yelling? Yes, what is he yelling?

FLOCK: ... hear him screaming. He's "Cubs Woo, Cubs Woo." He just yells "Woo," and he's a great guy.

And so, oh, we've got one more guy here. I think we've got somebody else coming here, maybe one more guy.

PHILLIPS: All right, Jeff Flock...

FLOCK: OK, back to you.

PHILLIPS: ... OK, we'll come back to you, I promise.

We're going to -- Jeff Flock there, working the Wrigley Field, the fans, the players, the reporters.

We're going to take it back out to Josie Karp, though. She's in New York. She has been following the talks minute-by-minute.

Josie -- what do you got for us?

KARP: Well, I think one of the most interesting things from this standpoint here is there has been a lot of pressure on both sides to get this deal done, because of the history. We talk about the fact that they have never been able to negotiate a deal without having some form of work stoppage.

And just two little vignettes to point out that occurred in the past 25 minutes or so. There was one union negotiator that we saw every day for weeks, and I don't think I ever saw the man smile once. And he couldn't help himself. He couldn't stop grinning.

I just saw the chief negotiator for the Major League Baseball owners. He was rushing through the lobby of the building behind me, but he had to turn around and give thumbs-up. It just seems like there's a huge sense of relief on both sides.

They are going to go over who won, who lost, but the fact that they were able to avert some sort of work stoppage does definitely have some historic precedent.

And quickly, I need to also to go over what we know about this agreement. We are certainly going to learn more at 1:00, when they have this joint press conference.

But we knew going into it if something got done, that contraction wouldn't happen at least for the life of this agreement, which is four years. That means all of the talk of the teams, it would go away for four years. That's not going to happen.

In exchange, the union said, if you don't contract over these four years, then we won't get in your way if there is a need to contract after the life of this agreement.

There is also -- going to have the historic aspects of the testing for steroids, the drug testing for steroids. That had never been a part of any collective bargaining agreement before this.

And again, we're going to find out more about the details of the revenue sharing program. But it looks like about $258 million a year will be transferred, and that's actually the number that was recommended by the blue ribbon panel that was commissioned by Commissioner Selig several years ago, to try to look at the finances of baseball and see how they could approach the next collective bargaining agreement.

And again, we'll look at luxury tax. It will be included, probably not for a fourth year.

And then, the idea of when the agreement will end, on which date, October 31, December 31, or where exactly it will fall. And I hate to bring this up now, but it has some significance, because at the end of the next agreement, we could be looking at another situation, where it comes down to the wire, and there could be a strike or a lockout. And the date has a lot do with what could occur in that situation.

Back to you.

PHILLIPS: All right, Josie Karp following the talks there in New York -- thanks, Josie, so much.

We want to bring in "USA TODAY" reporter, Mel Antonen, once again to talk a little bit more about this possible deal that has been reached.

Mel, we were just looking at videotape from Wrigley Field. I don't know if we still have that live shot or not -- players arriving, bringing in their bags, bringing in their uniforms -- here it is right here -- slowly, but surely. Jeff Flock talking to a couple of these players -- young rookies.

What do you think, Mel? Do you think there's a difference in attitude between the rookies and the higher-paid, more high-profile players? Do you think the rookies are much more eager to get back to work?

ANTONEN: Oh, without a doubt -- without a doubt. The rookies are the ones that not only want to play, but they want to play well enough to earn a big-time paycheck.

But I think among a lot of the superstars, they, too, have a lot of little boy in them, and they want to play baseball. I mean, I think Edgar Martinez of the Seattle Mariners is 39 years old. He is not thinking about the financial aspects of baseball and what a strike would cost him; he is thinking about, I've got one more, maybe two years left to get to the World Series. I talked to Edgar a lot when he was in Minneapolis, playing the twins this week, and he was more concerned about the on field, what would happen on field, as opposed to the financial stuff.

So there is a lot of little boy in all the players. They still have this dream that they want to play baseball. And I would dare say that a good majority don't even really understand the issues that they are dealing with. I think they are so focused on the field.

PHILLIPS: Let's talk about the life of a player when a strike does happen. Are the high-paid ballplayers sitting poolside, sipping cocktails, and are the lower-paid ballplayers working a second job? What happens? Tell me the difference between the two?

ANTONEN: I think that's true. I think that, obviously, the more money you have, the more investments you have, the less you have to work. I think some of the first- and second- and third-year players would have some financial reserve -- maybe not to work for five or six months, but they could have to go to work. I know at the all-star game, Junior Spivey of the Arizona Diamondbacks said that if there were a prolonged strike, he'd go back to working loading trucks at a shipping company. So some of the younger players that are making just the Major League minimum of $200,000, their reserves wouldn't last forever, and they would have to go out and find jobs, assuming that the strike lasted -- assuming that the strike was prolonged.

PHILLIPS: Well, Mel, that takes us back to the days of Mickey Mantel, Yogi Berra. These guys -- when they weren't paid that much, they had to work second jobs, right?

ANTONEN: Oh, yes. They worked in the community. They were part of the community. That's the one thing that is missing from baseball now is that community aspect that players play with one team and stay with one team their entire career and be a part of the community. It is not happening now because of a lot of reasons. You know, free agency, and all of these players' rights are good for baseball and good for the players. It is just that you can't take them to the point where you hurt the game. You can have too many freedoms and you got to think a little bit about the game. I mean, in Mantel's day and Berra's day, those people were always New York Yankees. These days, we don't know from one year to the next whether one player is going to be with team A or team B.

But that's the way it is, and as long as players just play the game and not worry about the finances too much, the game will be fine.

PHILLIPS: There was true passion back then.

All right, Mel, we're going to ask to you sit tight, please. You are adding some great insight to our coverage this far. Mel Antonen "USA TODAY" -- thanks, Mel.




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