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Jerry_Manuel
12-06-2001, 07:51 PM
Fehr: Lump sums don't tell much
Associated Press
IRVING, Texas -- Players' union head Donald Fehr says no real conclusions can be drawn from claims that baseball will lose more than $519 million this year.

As players prepare to negotiate a new labor agreement and fight off a plan to eliminate two teams before next season, Fehr said Thursday that the numbers released by commissioner Bud Selig don't tell the whole story.

"There's a lot of information we do not have. We don't have information of what the costs are in a meaningful way," Fehr said. "If you are going to try to figure out what the situation is, you need to understand the revenue and you have to also understand the expenses."

Fehr said critical analysis is needed, but that baseball isn't providing the full information to do such.

"Simple numbers don't tell you much," Fehr said. "To examine figures on a sophisticated basis, you can't look at lump sum numbers."

In testimony Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee, which is considering legislation to repeal baseball's 79-year-old antitrust exemption, Selig said baseball owners would incur a $232 million operating loss this year.

That figure is increased by an additional loss of $112 million in interest costs and $174 million in amortization, the depreciation of a portion of teams' asset value. The losses came on record revenue of $3.5 billion.

"Do I think there is as much doom and gloom as some on the other side would make it seem? Absolutely not," said Arizona pitcher Brian Anderson. "The numbers can't possibly even add up to support those claims."

Selig claimed the $232 million operating loss was largely due to players' salaries caused by free agency and salary arbitration.

Fehr wasn't able to attend the congressional hearings because of the annual meeting of the players' association executive board.

"The audited financial statements are where inquiry begins," Fehr said. "It's not where inquiry ends, and it's far from a point at which you can draw any conclusions."

Still, Selig has released an unprecedented amount of financial information on the 30 major league teams.

Baseball is trying to justify a plan to eliminate two teams before next season. While the teams haven't been named, Minnesota and Montreal appear the likely candidates.

Players knew they were going to be working on a new labor agreement this offseason. But the union had been certain that contraction wouldn't be an issue in the process.

A senior official in the commissioner's office told Fehr soon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that shut down baseball for a week "that effectively, contraction was dead."

Fehr spoke with Selig on Oct. 31, and the commissioner couldn't say then if there would be a vote taken on contraction. An hour before the final game of the World Series on Nov. 4, Fehr found out there would be, and two days later owners approved the plan 28-2.

A grievance filed by the union over contraction was filed, and the first two days of those hearings were held in conjunction with the players' meeting. Those hearings resume Monday in New York.

With contraction unsettled, Fehr said it is impossible for the union to move forward on trying to negotiate a new labor agreement.

"If is difficult to conduct meaningful collective bargaining if you don't know how many teams there are or who they are," Fehr said. "We are at a point where hurdles have arisen and difficulties have arisen."

Fehr said initial work on a new deal began with baseball officials two years ago. There were more informal meetings last winter, and preliminary negotiation sessions as late as June.

While precise proposals and counter offers were made, Fehr claims that the negotiations were cut off by Selig. There have been no more talks.

"There are two things at hand, the contraction issue and there is the basic agreement issue," said San Francisco second baseman Jeff Kent, the 2000 NL MVP. "I don't doubt that both sides will be able to put their heads together and solve the issues before baseball needs to be played."

Fehr hopes that's the case, but admitted that during the three days of player meetings, there was talk about preparing for the possibility of another work stoppage.

"When you prepare, you don't prepare for best-case scenarios," Fehr said. "It's fair to say the players are more than a little frustrated."