It's time to break out the bats and balls.
Finally, after 34 tortuous bargaining sessions, the 32-day-old spring training lockout that has delayed the 1990 baseball season has ended. According to Commissioner Fay Vincent, the season will begin on April 9 and at least 158 regular-season games will be scheduled, with the hope that make-up and double-header games will provide the full complement of 162 games.Despite the agreement, this was the second longest baseball stoppage of the century. Players struck for 49 days in 1981, and owners locked out players for three weeks in 1976.
Vincent said that the new four-year agreement includes a minimum salary of $100,000 for major league players, up from the current $68,000. But the key issue in the dispute was salary arbitration. Owners said that a player needs three full years of experience before becoming eligible for arbitration, while players preferred two years.
The settlement said that players with 2 1/2 years of major league service and at least 86 days of service in the year just concluded would form a pool. Of the players in that group, the 17 percent with the most service will be eligible for arbitration.
This seems like a minute issue to have divided owners and players for so long. When Vincent was asked if he thought baseball had been damaged because of the lock-out, he said it had but that the "recuperative powers of baseball" would keep the damage from being permanent.
Given the devotion of the public to the great American pastime, that is probably true. Yet it still seems unfortunate that the boys of spring who are remunerated so generously for playing ball would dispute so long and hard over jots and tittles.