Fehr: No date set for labor talks

Updated: February 23, 2006, 12:34 PM ET
Associated Press

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Baseball union head Donald Fehr thinks it is too early to start labor negotiations before the Dec. 19 expiration of the sport's collective bargaining agreement.

On his tour of the 30 major league spring training camps, Fehr met for 1½ hours Thursday with Atlanta Braves players. Management hopes to get an early start on bargaining -- if next season is played without a new deal in place, there would not be a luxury tax.

"There has been no formal date set," Fehr said. "It's early. We'll have to see. The obvious goal is to get a deal done, and we'll certainly try as hard as we can to do it and, hopefully, the owners will, too."

While there were eight work stoppages from 1972-95, players and owners reached an agreement in 2002 a few hours before a strike was to begin.

Possibly sending an early signal to owners that he doesn't want to hear they are in financial distress, Fehr says the economic environment in the game has improved since 2002.

"There were record revenues last year, and attendance things continue to look very good, and those are very positive signs," Fehr said.

While players and owners agreed to a drug policy in 2002, that deal was toughened in 2004 and again last year following political pressure. Drugs most likely won't be part of these negotiations.

"We have an agreement in place," he said. "I don't expect it to come up."

Fehr would not say if he specifically tried to clarify any ongoing confusion about drug testing, particularly for young players or foreign players.

"You can assume, and I say this in every meeting, that usually we get around to every topic of relevance," he said. "We're doing everything that we can to make sure that everybody understands what has gone on and what's ahead of us."

Fehr said his spring tour will take about 10 days longer than normal because of the World Baseball Classic. The union and the commissioner's office have jointly organized the 16-team tournament, which runs from March 3-20.

"We're keeping our fingers crossed with the WBC," he said. "It looks like it will be a lot of fun."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press