Baseball Clubs Drop Salary Cap Demand

NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball owners will drop their demand for a salary cap in their new collective bargaining proposal, and instead will ask players to agree to a payroll and revenue "tax" that would help small-market clubs.


The shift, revealed Monday by the owners' chief negotiator, Red Sox chief executive officer John Harrington, will be the focus of management's first new collective bargaining proposal since June 14.


The proposal will be given to the union Thursday when talks to settle the 95-day-old strike resume in Washington. The past six days, during which the two sides have been meeting with federal mediator W.J. Usery, have brought about more progress than in the first 89 days of the dispute.


"It's not a salary cap in the strictest terms," Harrington said. "A tax concept can look like a salary cap, and any tax plan is meant to put some controls on labor costs."


"All payrolls would be taxed at a low percentage. All clubs would be affected above a certain level," Harrington said. The significance of the new proposal will depend on the level of the tax. A high percentage presumably would be rejected by the union. A lower number could lead to additional negotiations.


A shift from a salary cap had been expected since three days of talks between players and owners ended Saturday. "I wouldn't get overly optimistic about movement off the cap because there are tax programs that are worse than a salary cap and tax programs that are better," said union lawyer Gene Orza. "It doesn't make me more pessimistic or optimistic. I just want to see it."


When owners first proposed a salary cap -- a ceiling on a team's total payroll, players said they would never accept one. The owners haven't budged since.


If a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached by mid-December, the owners may choose to impose their terms on the players, which is their right under federal labor law. Players' concern with a self-tax among owners is that too high a tax would inhibit teams from signing free agents -- basically having the same effect as a salary cap.


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The Scottsdale Scorpions have accounted for 80 percent of all attendance in the Arizona Fall League. Their marquee attraction: Michael Jordan.


"I don't think they're coming to see me play baseball," the former Chicago Bulls Star, now with baseball's Chicago White Sox, said. "They're coming because of what I've done in basketball."


The Scorpions have drawn 59,232 in their 33 home and road games. Total attendance for the league is 74,373. While Jordan has played before crowds of 6,000, other teams have drawn around 100 fans for some games.