ATLANTA REGROUPS: This was the kind of day it was for the Braves: As the team's buses departed a downtown Pittsburgh hotel Friday morning, manager Bobby Cox called out, "Has anyone seen Chipper? Maddux? Marquis?"
He could have added Kevin Millwood and Mark DeRosa to the list because the five players, unaware the team was departing for Montreal as baseball's negotiators hammered out a new agreement, missed the bus.
The buses pulled over to the curb, and the five players, toting their bags, joined their teammates.
At the same time, reliever Mike Remlinger, the team's player representative, received a call from pitcher Tom Glavine, who was in New York for the negotiations, telling him a deal had been finalized.
"Big sigh of relief," Remlinger said. "It will be interesting to see how it all plays out because both sides think they gave substantially."
While a strike was narrowly averted, the Braves' day didn't improve. Because negotiations dragged on through most of the morning, the team pushed back its departure time, then its Delta charter had to replace a tire. By the time the 727 took off, it was nearly 3 p.m. The flight north was just an hour, but the buses to Olympic Stadium were soon encased in bumper-to-bumper traffic and didn't arrive at the stadium until 5:30, just 95 minutes before the scheduled start of Friday night's game against the Expos.
"This totally screws up your day, but I think the fact that nobody is complaining about the day we had gives you an idea about how happy we are to get a deal done," Remlinger said.
That reaction was repeated by numerous players.
"I'm relieved, glad it's over, and happy we don't have to worry about it for four more years," Millwood said. "I hope next time we can get something done before it comes down to the last few hours."
Said second baseman Keith Lockhart: "It's been playing on everybody for a while. I didn't even like the idea of missing one day. We were so close, I couldn't imagine not getting something done."
Most players were unaware of the details to the deal between the players union and owners, so when someone flicked on the TV in the clubhouse and Glavine was being interviewed on ESPN, a dozen players gathered around to listen.
"I thought we were going (on strike)," Jones admitted. "I didn't think the union would give up as much as it did. In order to get the job done, both sides had to give a lot."