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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Strike Talks Sluggish As Owners Dig in Heels

NEW YORK -- Do baseball's collective bargaining negotiations need a mediator or mortician?


The situation was not entirely clear Thursday, when federal mediators recommended a recess only a day and a half after the talks had resumed for the first time since the players' strike began Aug. 12.


Although there may now be some meaningful activity behind the scenes, sources said formal negotiations are unlikely to resume before Tuesday or Wednesday, possibly in Washington.


"There was no movement and no indication of movement," Don Fehr, the union's executive director, said as the recess began Thursday.


Not quite true.It seemed that many of the 12 owners and club executives who had joined the process Wednesday could not wait to get moving.


They had previously scheduled flights to catch, as did some of the 14 players, down from the 21 of Wednesday.


Curt Schilling, the Philadelphia Phillies' pitcher, was angry. "I want to play baseball," he said. "A lot of us were willing to stay as many hours as it took, but we had the feeling that a lot of the owners wanted to leave and there was just no movement. It's just my opinion, but I don't think there's going to be anymore baseball played this season."


The union, of course, has thought that was the owners' agenda all along, forcing the players to strike by refusing to waive their right to ultimately declare an impasse and unilaterally impose their salary-cap system.


For the first time Thursday, Fehr agreed publicly with two oft-mentioned premises:


?Although knowing the union will never accept it, the owners have refused to take the salary cap off the table because, in an impasse situation, labor law requires management to implement its last formal offer, and the cap is paramount to their new system.


?The owners agreed to mediation only as a demonstration of good-faith bargaining in the event the union claims otherwise in protesting an impasse declaration.


"I look on it as evidence they don't want to reach agreement," Fehr said of the owners' refusal to budge on the cap because of the impasse option.


With the sides polarized, John Calhoun Wells, national director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, said he recommended a recess after talks Thursday morning.


He said he would stay in contact with both sides and hoped they could continue deliberations in smaller groups.


Although lawyers agreed that something positive could emerge from an ongoing dialogue in a fireside format, none were scheduled as of Thursday night, and Fehr said the recess could be a long one. "We're not at a point where people walked out in a huff, but clearly we had nothing substantive to talk about."


"Their response to everything we say is, 'So, are you ready to give us a salary cap?' I mean, we knew going in that these meetings would mostly produce a cheering section for Dick and the cap, and that's mostly what it was."