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Press Conference: Baseball Players, Management Reach Agreement

Aired August 30, 2002 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We are also looking at a live picture here out of New York. We are expecting a press conference, 1 p.m. Eastern time. Thatís actually any second now.

Our Bill Tucker is there outside of where those talks have been taking place. Bill, any second now, we should be hearing from both sides here as they take to the podium to tell us about the deal that evidently was reached.

BILL TUCKER, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Youíre right, Kyra. Youíve just -- You know, youíre talking about it being a business. It is also a game. And the fact that itís a game has created all the passion thatís surrounded all of these negotiations, all of these talks. And all of these feelings about whether, in fact, there would be a strike and if the season, in fact, could be saved. We are waiting to the press conference to start. I have a feeling it might be a couple of minutes.

The commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, just left this building about five minutes ago. Now itís only two blocks up and one over to the hotel where theyíre holding the news conference. But he was surrounded by a gaggle of reporters as he makes his way over, so I think we may be a little delayed in starting. We do know that there has been an agreement that reached terms on drug testing, on revenue sharing, on the luxury tax, on the term -- the length of the contract and the termination date. What we don't know, Kyra, is the details of that contract, and thatís what weíre hoping to find out here any minute now.

PHILLIPS: All right, Bill Tucker, standing by there in New York. We'll go right back to you as soon as both sides take to the podium there to tell us what has happened in an apparent deal between players and owners, and hopefully, Larry Smith, as you sit here with us, itís going to be good news for fans and, of course, for players and owners.

Something that Jeff Greenfield brought up, our senior analyst, he was saying that back when he grew up watching baseball, it was Americaís -- it was just the national pastime. Players were so much more involved in the community. You mentioned this whole PR problem and this image, a lot thatís going to have to be done to sort of get people looking at the game and at players and at owners in a more positive manner. Weíre tracking now the news conference. It looks like itís going to start here in New York. Let's listen in.

Who do we have here?

TUCKER: Thereís Bud Selig. Bud Seligís the commissioner, there on the left. Don Fehr, union chief negotiator, heís been for many years. He is now on your left. He has moved. Bud Selig you know, youíve seen him so many times. These two know each other very well. They were rivals in 1994-í95, and now theyíre here again.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Weíre short a chair?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Weíre close enough fellows. We can all manage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we short a chair?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is another one. Take this one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can all stand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Weíll all sit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you guys got enough?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here is another one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, Steve. Come on.

PHILLIPS: All right. A little bit of commotion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did he say? Youíre too short? You need a chair?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Theyíre actually short a chair. There are not enough chairs for all the lawyers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some of the richest men in the world. They Donít have a chair for them.

PHILLIPS: There is a problem there.

TUCKER: Itís a good sign they were able to -- Again anxious to hear the details when we start here momentarily, because weíre just over two hours away from the first pitch in Chicago. Hereís Bud Selig, the commissioner --

BUD SELIG, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL COMMISSIONER: I am deeply gratified and very, very happy to report that major league baseballís 30 clubs and the Major League Baseball Players Association have today reached an historic agreement and that all games will be played as scheduled. I think the thing that makes me the happiest is we can now, once again, turn our complete attention to the field.

This is a historic agreement because it represents for the first time in baseball history that we have reached a collective bargaining agreement without the loss of a single game. We also believe that this agreement will make significant contributions to restoring competitive balance.

Iím not going to go into the specifics of the proposed agreement at this time. We expect to go through a formal ratification process of the clubs within a week. I will tell you that it has all of the component parts that weíve discussed. Thereís been a great deal of give and take in the other agreement. Both sides, through some very, very hard work, accommodating each other and, I believe, made an agreement and, again, we'll do the things that we have talked about.

This agreement, clearly in my judgment, is in the best interests of the game for a myriad of reasons, but as I said earlier, I know and Iím sure Don will agree with me, you can now turn your attention back where it belongs. Iím fond of quoting the Beatles song about a long and winding road, and this has been a long, very difficult and winding road, spanning over three-plus decades.

But at least today, we were able to do what hasn't been done before, and hopefully that spirit and all the energy thatís gone to this will be channeled in the right directions, and that baseball, the greatest game in the world, and all of its fans, will be the beneficiary of this. Thank you. Don?

DONALD FEHR, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MLBPA: Thank you, Bud. I have had the privilege to represent major league players, first as their general council and then as their executive director for 25 years and one month tomorrow. And during most of that period, we have been involved in traveling down many long and winding and difficult roads, and collective bargaining is often a process which is tortured and troubled and difficult.

But I want to echo what Bud said in one very particular regard. It has been a very long time since a collective bargaining agreement in baseball has been negotiated without a work stoppage. And what we can now hope for is that it will be a very long time before a collective bargaining agreement is negotiated after a work stoppage. You know, all streaks come to an end, and this is one that was overdue to come to an end.

Any agreement of this type, any collective bargaining agreement, requires substantial accommodations by everyone. Our prior agreements have done so, this agreement does so, but maybe this one gives us a chance to bring the game some stability that it hasn't had and return the focus where it belongs. Because with all due respect to all of you, I suspect that most of the people out there would rather be watching pictures of them than watching pictures of Bud or watching pictures of me, and hopefully, after today, thatís what youíll be doing.

I want to thank the members of our negotiating committee: BJ and Tommy are here; Gene Orza; Mike Weiner; Steve Fehr; the rest of the Players Association staff for their hard work; and also the members of the club's negotiating committee, on my left, Peter Angelos; Andrew McFaile (ph); Rob Manfred; (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and of course the commissioner, and there were a lot of other people involved that aren't sitting up here. I think itís fair to say that this could not have been accomplished without a lot of effort by everyone. It just doesn't happen any other way, and weíre all very happy to be here. Thank you.

SELIG: If I may just also add: I want to thank Don and Steve and Gene and everybody involved, Tommy and B.J. and all of our people, Bob and Rob, and my friends Mr. McFaile (ph) and Mr. Angelos. They asked me many times what had they done wrong to deserve what they just had to go through, but the fact of the matter is, everybody on both sides worked tirelessly. It was a very difficult process, but all their hearts were in the right place and just the end result is -- all of you have my undying gratitude and I think the undying gratitude of a lot of people, to bring this thing to a happy conclusion. So we thank all of you.

FEHR: Take a few questions?

SELIG: Yes. Questions?

QUESTION: What was the reaction from your fan base in most of the negotiations?

SELIG: Well, look, obviously somebody who reads too much and watches too much, I understand all that reaction, as many of you in this room know. Of course, all of us are very, very sensitive to fan reaction. Both of us had jobs to do, problems to deal with, things to do, and weíve now have done them, done them without a work stoppage, and so hopefully we can move on and, as I say, return the focus back to the field.

QUESTION: Why did it take so long to reach an agreement, what was the key issue?

SELIG: Well, there were a lot of difficult issues. Iím sure that both -- both sides could answer that. We had to deal with a myriad of issues that were not only complex, but we were on a lot of ground that hadn't been plowed before. But the important thing, I think, really, in the end is we did it before there was a game lost, and thatís frankly, today, at least for me, and Iím sure Don feels the same way, all thatís important.

FEHR: There is a tendency -- I know some of you have heard me say this before -- to try and analogize collective bargaining negotiations in sports to the games on the field. Itís easy. Itís quick. And we get questions like, who won today? or whoís ahead today? or something like that. The difficulty with answering those questions, of course, is that they don't mean anything in the context of collective bargaining.

The game is only over when the contract is reached and you only win, and you both win, when the contract is reached. And so, as we look at it, there were lots of issues, lots of accommodations. In most respects the initial proposals of the parties don't resemble very much the eventual agreements that were reached, and you have to stay at it until you get it done. Thereís simply no other way to describe it.

QUESTION: Do you think this deal will inhibit future bidding or free agents? SELIG: Well, number one, that was not the purpose of the deal. I think, you know, weíve made clear all along that the issue here was competitive balance, and I feel this deal -- this deal clearly deals with that.

FEHR: Obviously -- Iíll just say obviously thatís a subject that -- that we're very sensitive to, I think, as all of you know. And we believe this is an agreement we can live with; otherwise we wouldn't have made it.

SELIG: All right.

QUESTION: You have said that you had economic problems. Do you believe this deal pays a little bit better for both sides?

SELIG: You know, Iím going to let history determine that, Don. The deal, I think, speaks for itself, and after both sides have had a chance to study it and ratify it, that will be a time for discussion of those kind of subjects, but I think that -- that the deal is sensitive to the concerns that Iíve raised and others have raised over the years.

QUESTION: Can you talk about the issues -- the major issues that you were dealing with?

SELIG: I don't know. At my age, my hearing might be going, but am sorry I can't hear you.

QUESTION: Can you talk about the issues?

SELIG: Well, I -- frankly, today, I really would rather not. The clubs need to ratify this. The players certainly need to ratify it. Itís a deal that has dealt with all the issues that weíve all talked about. But I think thereíll be a day later that we can discuss those matters.

We need to get out of here shortly.

QUESTION: Even though no games were lost, how much damage do you think thereís going to be from this process?

SELIG: Well, number one, how would you judge that? But number two, while this was clearly controversial and had a lot of tension and there were a lot of things that -- that I wished wouldn't have happened, because I believe the best days of my commissionership, and Iím sure Don said that and feels the same way, is when the focus is on the field. Thatís just what we can do now. We need to get the focus back on the field. And this deal will do that.

FEHR: Let me just add one comment. I get that question a lot: is the process of bargaining something which damages the game, because you have stories about the difficulty of bargaining. Whether or not that is true, the fact of a settlement ought to repair and not only repair, but enhance the game, and thatís maybe, perhaps, the biggest benefit of all of this.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) What was that?

SELIG: Obviously, I can't speak for Don. Iím a -- Iím a Yogi Berra theorist. When it was over, then I knew it was going to get done, and so -- the sides were persistent. The sides -- both sides showed a lot of tenacity and kept at it, and like everything else in life, like the long journey on the long winding road, I mean, it had its ups and downs. But all that matters is in the end, is how you finished.

QUESTION: What was the final hurdle? Was it the revenue sharing?

SELIG: You take this.

FEHR: I think Iíve tried to make this point before, and I know that Rob has. And that is that thereís a suggestion that thereís a final hurdle, and there obviously is something you have to have the last conversation about, but in fact, it doesn't work that way. You have lots of different pieces. Iím not going to get into specifics. And if you move a piece over here, it affects a different piece over there. There are no single-issue final hurdles, ordinarily, and I didn't think there was one here.

SELIG: Okay. Well, I...

QUESTION: Who do we have to (OFF-MIKE)

SELIG: What was the question? Reaction from the players. Tommy? B.J.?

B.J. SURHOFF, NL PLAYERS REP: Iíll let him answer, since Iím not playing.

TOM GLAVINE, NL PLAYERS REP: Well, I think it goes without saying that we're all excited and happy that we got this done with and we don't have to go through the uncertainties of another work stoppage and what it does to the game and how it affects the fans of the game. So I think weíre all relieved that itís behind us. Weíre happy about the deal that weíve been able to make and, like everybody has said, weíre looking forward to getting back out in the field and having the attention be what we do on the field and not everything thatís going on off the field.

SURHOFF: Yes, and you know, on top of that, one thing people don't really realize is players are fans, too. They want to get this thing done, and we want to try to work out a resolution. And we stayed at it hard, and they stayed at it hard. And, you know, ultimately, we got the deal done, and now weíre going to move forward and put the focus on going back into September and hopefully a great plus season again.

QUESTION: Tom, do you feel the players got more involved this time in the whole process than you have been in the past?

GLAVINE: I don't know if I could say they got more involved. I mean, players have always been involved, you know. In the span of my career, this is the second one that Iíve been involved in and, you know, player interest is, I think, a lot higher than people think it is, you know. Guys are -- guys are concerned about what is going on, and we have an input on whatís going on and, you know, maybe this time around, because I think at times nobody was quite sure exactly what everybody was trying to achieve sometimes, but, you know, and it got complicated at times, but I think for the most part, the interest level was the same as it generally is. I mean, itís our future; weíre interested in what happens to it.

QUESTION: You said all along in the last few weeks, that you thought something would get done. Were there any times in the past few days where you didn't know at all?

GLAVINE: Probably. I don't know to what degree, but itís like I said so many times during the process. I think if thereís one thing I learned as a player going through this before is -- is you try to keep your emotions out of it. And you just try and keep plugging along. And you know thereís going to be moments where you think, okay, things are going good, and you hope to capitalize on it.

And the next thing you know, things kind of take a turn in a different direction, so you try to remove your emotions from it as much as you can, but, you know, I just, I don't know -- I donít know what it was, I just felt like both sides had enough common ground that we could talk about it and too much to lose to not get a deal done. And ultimately, thatís the way it worked out.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

GLAVINE: The advice of all of the people that were doing a deal for us, you know. I mean these -- these things are analyzed and scrutinized and looked at every which way and, you know, I think ultimately there was a place that we all thought we could go and live with it, and thatís where we ultimately got to, so, you know, itís something that we felt comfortable with.

QUESTION: Unfortunately, Tommy, at least, has got a plane to catch. So we can't go on indefinitely.

SELIG: All right. Let's take one more, and then -- Okay?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FEHR: There -- there are provisions covering the worldwide draft in the agreement, yes.

SELIG: Yes, there are. Bill?

QUESTION: Is this a six- or a four-year deal?

SELIG: This is a four-year deal.

QUESTION: This is a four-year deal. Are you fairly confident with the substance of this deal that three years from now that youíre not going to be back here with both sides? SELIG: Well, Bill, look, there is no sense in trying to project. I said this is a historic deal for a number -- for a number of reasons. It is. Both sides feel comfortable with whatís done here, and I certainly do; and thereís no sense sitting here and projecting what it will or won't do. Obviously, thereís been an enormous amount of thought that went into this deal, an enormous amount of work, and so when we agreed to the deal late this morning, it culminated not months, but years of work on both sides. And I -- Iím very comfortable with that.

QUESTION: What time did you reach the deal?

SELIG: To be frank with you, I lost track of time about 2:00 yesterday afternoon. Iím not exactly sure what time it is right now. Okay.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Do you feel that this is truly the first time in all of these negotiations that the owners really were a part of that winning?

SELIG: Itís not important to me to talk about winning and losing. The important thing to me is that, I think there were a lot of people who never believed theyíd live long enough to see these two parties come together, make a very meaningful deal, and do it without one game of work stoppage, and I mean that. Iíve been, I guess, Iím the longest survivor in the game now, since 1970, and when I think back to all the heartache of the years and Donís right behind me. This was a day that many people never believed would happen, and it did and so, for a lot of reasons, Iím very grateful today. Very grateful.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SELIG: Well, you know, there were a lot of moments when there was a lot of justification for it, and I think the reason I feel as good as I do right now is that Iím proud of the fact that these parties could come together in the end and do what was in the best interest of the game, and so I am grateful. I thank all of you. The players have to leave, and I appreciate your coming. (applause)

LARRY SMITH, CNN SPORTS: Well, there we have it. Commissioner Bud Selig, union chief Donald Fehr in New York, relaying the news to all and, you know, we talked earlier, Kyra, before this -- In fact, we kind of wish that maybe, in some ways, they could try to begin hoping that this does, or will begin to heal the wounds of the nation, that I should say the fan, I should say. There are bigger issues weíre dealing with in this country right now.

Unfortunately, I hate to editorialize, and I hope I donít rub anybody wrong. This is what really -- It helps in terms of saying that weíve done it, but there are so many details that we missed out on this. What we do know -- We donít know a lot of things -- But what we do know is, it is a four-year deal through 2006. All games will be played this year, and as Bud Selig mentioned there, itís the first time that these two parties have come together with an agreement without any kind of work stoppage. Labor talks have ended without a work stoppage, the first time ever. And he had a very interesting point, as well, that I found pretty funny. People thought -- some people thought they would probably never, ever live to see the day when these two had agreed.

PHILLIPS: Yes. This is an historic moment. And Jeff Greenfield, let's back down. Middle East peace process. Now thatís historic. Yes, but all right. We're going to talk a little bit more about this, as this news develops. But quickly, we're going to turn it over to Jeff Flock in Chicago at Wrigley Field with fan reaction. I guess, Jeff, what do we got? Less than two hours. It looks like we're going to play ball at Wrigley Field.

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Two hours to game time, you said it. And thatís when they open the gates. Itís great to see this sign right here. We see 2:20 game time up there. And just about three or four minutes ago, they opened the gates. So all of the fans that have been lining up out here, a lot of them came from St. Louis. I can't even believe that: Cardinal fans come to Chicago for a ball game. You came all the way, and were you sweating it out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We really were. We stayed in Rockford last night with some relatives and came in by train, and we just heard about 12:30 that they had settled, so...

FLOCK: You were coming ahead anyway? You were...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely, we were hopeful.

FLOCK: What were you going to do, may I ask, if it all went south on you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We werenít going to be very happy. We would have gone home.

FLOCK: And I tell you, as weíre talking, itís even possible -- I donít know when you bought your tickets, but Jeffrey, if you look over there at the ticket windows, they are still selling day of game tickets. How long ago did you buy your tickets?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My family bought them, and they ordered them about a month ago, I think.

FLOCK: Apparently, Kyra, a lot of people are thinking -- thanks folks. I appreciate it. Enjoy the game. A lot of people apparently were speculating that there would be a strike, so there were a lot of day of game tickets available.

This is Friday afternoon of September -- or almost September, I guess. Perfect time for a ball game, generally always a sell-out at this time, particularly for a Cardinals game, so the fact that they theyíve got day-of tickets available really indicated a lot of people were sitting on the sidelines and not buying tickets in advance. So a lot of very happy people.

I leave you with this beautiful image out here of an open Wrigley Field. There will be baseball today! Back to you.

PHILLIPS: Jeff, I want to know, are you going to the game?

FLOCK: Iím about to head off to the field right now. Hopefully, if we talk again, it will be from down on the field. Maybe we'll have some of those players that were a little more silent as they made their way in. I have a few more things to say. Maybe theyíll say, Hey, weíre back playing baseball. We don't want to talk about anything else. We want to talk about next season.

PHILLIPS: All right. I hope the next live shot we have with you in the next hour will be inside that ballpark. Jeff Flock at Wrigley Field. Thanks, Jeff.

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