Originally created 01/25/02

Contraction hearing resumes, recessed until week of Feb. 4



NEW YORK -- The hearing on the grievance by baseball players to block contraction resumed Thursday, then quickly recessed until the week of Feb. 4.

Management labor lawyer Rob Manfred was the only witness Thursday, the 11th day of testimony before arbitrator Shyam Das. Management lawyers finished their cross-examination of Manfred, who was called as a witness by the union.

When the hearing resumes, the union intends to put additional questions to Manfred on redirect. After that, players intend to call Paul Beeston, baseball's chief operating officer, and at least two other management officials.

Only then will management lawyers begin to present their defense, meaning the case is likely to drag on well into spring training, which starts Feb. 14.

Das is to meet Monday with lawyers from both sides to settle document disputes in the case and fix a more precise schedule for the resumption of the hearing. It is possible the hearing may resume in Tampa, Fla., where players and owners have scheduled their yearly salary arbitration hearings from Feb. 4-21.

Owners voted on Nov. 6 to eliminate two teams before the 2002 season and although they didn't specify which franchises to fold, Minnesota and Montreal were clearly their targets. Players claim the decision violated their labor contract, which expired Nov. 7 but remains in force.

On Nov. 16, a Minnesota district judge issued an injunction that forces the Twins to honor their lease at the Metrodome in 2002, and the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the injunction Tuesday in a 3-0 vote.

Owners appealed Wednesday to the Minnesota Supreme Court. The Twins' landlord, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, is due to submit an answer to the appeal by next Wednesday. For an appeal to be heard, three of the seven justices must vote to accept the case.

Lawyers for players and owners also agreed to hold negotiating sessions next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in the Phoenix area.

Bargaining for a new labor contract has been slowed by management's attempt to eliminate teams.

Owners have asked for a 50 percent luxury tax on the portions of payrolls above $98 million and to increase the amount of locally generated revenue that teams share from 20 percent to 50 percent, after a deduction for ballpark expenses.