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Interview with Rob Weingarten

Aired August 30, 2002 - 11:31   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And as we were speaking here, we went grabbed Rob Weingarten back. He was on his way to his at 790 The Zone, a sports talk radio show here in Atlanta. Good thing you stuck around here buddy. What do you make of what you are seeing so far?
ROB WEINGARTEN, 790 THE ZONE: I think we're seeing a split on the players' side. I think we are finally starting to see the union say, Hey, you know what? We have got a pretty good deal. Yes, we got to give a couple things back, but we're making plenty of money, and we don't want to mess with that right now. There is really no reason to do it at this point, and once that happens with the players, then the union leadership, they have got to follow suit. And so the players are basically giving it back, and looks like we'll get a deal done.

HARRIS: Now, I want you to take a look at this piece of paper I just handed you, because that is something I found on the wires, and it said something -- there is a hint about what may have been the sticking point here, something about -- the date -- the players had been fighting the idea of a luxury tax for a long time. This time around, they gave in on that philosophical issue. The question then became, how much of a ceiling would they allow for a luxury tax on the teams, on the big spending teams, and how long that would be in the deal. Right now, they are talking about a four-year contract, that is what they are negotiating today. Players had only wanted -- they did cave in -- shouldn't say cave in, they conceded the idea of a luxury tax, but they only wanted it for three years. Well, they give in on the idea of a four-year luxury tax, but it seems like the last sticking point for the last few hours has been over whether or not that deal would expire in October or in December. Now what does that mean? Does that mean anything at all to you?

WEINGARTEN: Well, it just means what happens when contracts expire at the end of a season, which generally ends in October, so the time frame there would benefit the players. They would rather have it earlier than later, giving you more time to shop around for free agency and things like that, but again, a very minor point, but this is what happens. With, really, Don Fehr and Bud Selig when they get together, it is just -- it is just a huge contest of egos and wills, and this time, Bud Selig gets to go back to the owners and say, hey guys, we won one, isn't that great?

WHITFIELD: Talking about that luxury tax, one source was quoted as saying that in the first year, there was something like a $3 million difference, and in the second year a $6 million difference in that luxury tax. Is that a pretty significant hurdle that the two sides had to come to terms on? WEINGARTEN: No, not at all. They really, in last few days, have come much closer together from where it was about a week ago. Now the players' original proposal only would have penalized the New York Yankees, whereas the owners wanted to back it down a little bit more so more teams would be paying into the luxury tax, and help finance the teams that can't manage to manage themselves.

HARRIS: All right. For the folks who are just now joining us, we just want to let you know that we don't know that this has happened yet. We can't say this is solid proof, but to us this is some evidence that there has been some movement in the strike talks in New York. We've been watching here all morning this scene outside of Fenway Park. We have got two buses -- at least two buses out there, poised ready to go to the airport, and it appears, though, within the last 10 minutes or so, last five minutes, we've begun to see players come out and board the buses to go to the airport. So that would indicate to us that perhaps they are expecting to go to Cleveland...


WHITFIELD: ... it feels encouraging because as we see one truck pull out, but...

HARRIS: There we go. There is the equipment truck heading out.

WHITFIELD: It certainly could be. Remember we did see boxes of something go in, and we weren't sure if that was lunch or perhaps equipment of something these guys might need in order to play a baseball game this evening, and now, of course, a truck is pulling out, but we don't really know exactly what that means. But encouraging signs to see these players go get on the buses because, for those folks who don't really -- who aren't really aware of the goings on at the park or otherwise, a lot of these players usually drive themselves to the park, where they all then meet, and then they will all collectively go. And so that is why a lot of the fans would be waiting there, hoping to see an encouraging sign, to see these players board these buses. So, the fingers are crossed.

HARRIS: Let me ask you something, Rob. You talked just a second ago about Donald Fehr and Bud Selig and the owners. Let me ask you about what has happened here this go round. We know that there has been a long history of mistrust between the players' union and the owners, and some would say for good reason, in particular with the commissioner now, who is also part of that collusion deal with the owners years back. Does this go around, do anything at all to heal that rift between the parties?

WEINGARTEN: Oh, no. Not at all. As long as Bud Selig is sitting in that chair, that is not going to change, and as long as Don Fehr is sitting in his chair, that is not going to change.

HARRIS: Well, the reason I ask that is because if what we are seeing here does turn out to be proof of a resolution, then that means for the first time there has not been a strike after a date has been set, and that would seem to be something of a move towards a healing or the rift, wouldn't you think? WEINGARTEN: No, I just think it is a move of self preservation and players really protecting an enormous financial interest. I wish we could get the camera in Fenway to go pan the players' parking lot and take a look at some of those rides that they have been able to buy with their $2.5 million dollars average salary.

I think the players are just protecting their own. They are never going to trust Bud Selig, they really have no reason to, and don't think for a moment that this deal that may get done today, as we think it will, is going to cure the ills of Major League Baseball.

WHITFIELD: And if there is a deal, how much of that deal making do you think is contingent upon the fact that are fans who are expressing their outrage in various forms, and especially post-9/11, the sentiments are from so many, How dare you have these kind of talks that -- would be at this center point of those talks to be money, when the country was able to demonstrate post-9/11 how much it needed some relief, and especially seeing after the Yankees particularly would win?

WEINGARTEN: That entire post-9/11 feeling was gone from baseball a long time ago, and I think the last thing the fans want to hear is baseball and 9/11 in the same sentence. I think that whole concept is outraged a lot of people.

Now, of course, we're all waiting to see what happens tonight. My guess is tonight everyone is going to go back to the ballpark and cheer.

HARRIS: All right. Well, you stick around.




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