MLB players union sets strike date
NEW YORK, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- After several days of additional bargaining failed to produce a deal, the Major League Baseball Players Association Friday set Aug. 30 as their strike date if a new collective bargaining agreement with the owners is not reached.
The union's executive board had been set to set a strike date on Monday during a meeting in Chicago, but decided to negotiate a few more days before setting a date. The two sides showed
little progress, especially over the thorny issue of a luxury tax, and the players put the sport on the clock for its ninth work stoppage since 1972.
Aug. 30 is a Friday and starts the long Labor Day holiday weekend.
"The players are committed to reaching a fair and equitable agreement, one which takes into account their views, and not just those of the owners," said union chief Donald Fehr. "Needless to say, we are prepared to meet and bargain with the owners' representative until an agreement is reached."
"We delayed things at the All-Star break and delayed things a few days ago," Kansas City Royals player representative Jason Grimsley told baseball's website, MLB.com, on Thursday. "We're not delaying things anymore."
The vote to strike was made via conference call.
The two sides did not set a meeting for Friday, breaking a string of nearly a month in which they have conferred. But Rob Manfred, baseball's Vice President of Labor Relations, told MLB.com that management is "ready and willing to meet at any time."
Recently, the players made a proposal regarding testing for steroids, leading to public optimism on both sides.
However, the dispute over revenue and how it is shared does not appear to be anywhere near a resolution.
"The purpose to set a strike date is to speed up negotiations," said Joe Girardi, player representative for the Chicago Cubs. "All unions used to have to set a strike date and you hope it gets you over the top to get negotiations. It's not to strike because all of us want to play the game and that's what we love to do. It's just to get a deal done."
Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Mark Grace, another player aware of how much damage another work stoppage could do to the game, also tried to stress that a strike is not definite.
"It's just a deadline, just like you have a deadline. All of us live on deadlines. It doesn't mean we will absolutely go on
strike," Grace said. "I can't tell you a player that wants to go on strike. None of us do."
Players and owners reportedly have reached agreement on minimum salaries and financing of a benefit plan. The sides still are discussing revenue sharing, a luxury tax and a worldwide draft.
The owners' proposal would levy a 50 percent tax on portions of payrolls over $98 million. The New York Times reported Friday that owners increased their payroll tax threshold to $102 million in their most recent proposal.
Seven clubs began the season with payrolls, for luxury tax purposes, of over $100 million.
Players have complained that the tax, combined with revenue sharing, could serve as a salary cap, which they oppose.
Aug. 12 was the date of the last baseball strike in 1994, the only time baseball's postseason was wiped out.
Three-way tie at PGA Championship
CHASKA, Minn., Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Mark Calcavecchia and Justin Leonard, each with one major title to his credit, raced to the top of the leaderboard Friday and shared the lead with Rich Beem midway through the second round of the PGA Championship.
The frontrunners, taking advantage of ideal scoring conditions and completing their rounds just as the weather began to change, put pressure on superstar Tiger Woods as he prepared to begin his day's work.
Leonard and Beem both shot a 6-under 66, the low single-round score of the tournament, and Calcavecchia had a 68 to leave them tied at the top with a 36-hole total of 6-under 138.
Because of an almost three-hour delay during Thursday's play, 39 players had to return to the Hazeltine National Golf Club course early Friday to complete the first round.
The second round then got underway in cool, sunny and generally perfect conditions and a host of players took advantage of the opportunity. But just as the morning starters were finishing their rounds, the winds began to pick up, clouds rolled in and a light rain began to fall.
Forecasts called for heavy rain late Friday and for winds gusting to 30 miles per hour for Saturday's third round.
Calcavecchia and Leonard share the distinction of having won their lone major championship at Royal Troon. Calcavecchia captured the British Open there in 1989 and Leonard did so in 1997.
Calcavecchia, holder of the all-time PGA Tour record for low 72-hole score (256 at the 2001 Phoenix Open), is known for putting together stretches of brilliant play. His round Friday was highlighted by a chip-in for eagle at the par-5 15th.
"We had a great morning to play," Calcavecchia said. "I understand some weather might be coming in, so I'm glad to be finished.
"I've always been streaky. Sometimes I'm streaky bad, too. I was playing with some confidence and when I do, I try to stay aggressive. I don't try to keep it there. You try to get it as far under as you can when it is going good.
"Winning another major would be the ultimate. I wouldn't have thought that it was looking too good this week. My form hasn't been great. But that is the way I play. I hit three or four good iron shots in a row and there I go."
"It was as easy as we will see it." Leonard said. "I think the weather is going to change and we will see the real teeth of this course tomorrow. I'm looking forward to that. I would like to see it play as hard as possible."
Beem is coming off a victory at his most recent start two weeks ago at The International. He came to his final hole Friday one shot off the lead and drove deep into the rough.
But he carved his second shot around a tree and it ran onto the green, finishing just five feet from the hole.
One shot off the lead was 2001 U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, who was 5-under with one hole to play. Jim Furyk and Fred Funk, the first-round co-leaders, had afternoon starting times and began play two shots off the pace.
As Woods warmed up for his afternoon round, he was five shots off the lead and trailing 15 players. He is in search of his third major championship of the year, an achievement he pulled off in 2000.
A victory here would make him the first player in history to win three majors in a year twice.
Titans LB shelved by chest injury
MEMPHIS, Tenn., Aug. 16 (UPI) -- The Tennessee Titans learned before their exhibition game against Oakland Thursday night that they will have to live without veteran linebacker Jevon Kearse possibly a month because of a chest injury.
Kearse, 25, who was injured in practice on Tuesday, has a strained triceps muscle in his left arm. He underwent an MRI Thursday when the arm failed to respond to treatment, but it likely will not require surgery.
He definitely will not play in the Titans' final two preseason games, Aug. 23 at Minnesota and Aug. 30 at Green Bay. He also is questionable for the Titans' season opener at home against Philadelphia on Sept. 8.
The 6-4, 265-pound former All-American from the University of Florida who has been nicknamed "The Freak," has missed only two regular season contests in three years. He was the franchise's top draft pick, and 16th overall in 1999.
Last season, he had 10 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 26 solo tackles in what, for him, was a down year. Even so, he is just the third player in NFL history, the other being now-retired Reggie White and the late Derrick Thomas, to record double-digit sacks in each of his first three seasons after making 10 in his third campaign. He also was the first rookie ever to lead the league in sacks.
Reds put Larson on DL
CINCINNATI, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- The Cincinnati Reds Friday placed rookie utilityman Brandon Larson on the 15-day disabled list with a broken big toe in his left foot.
Larson was injured when he was hit by a pitch from Randy Johnson in Thursday's 7-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Larson was hitting .292 with four homers and 13 RBI in 20 games and 12
starts for the Reds.
The Reds called up outfielder Ruben Mateo from Triple-A Louisville of the International League to replace Larson on the roster. Mateo was with the Reds from April 11-May 15 and hit .277 with one homer and three RBI in 20 games.
In another move, righthander Luis Pineda was transferred from the 15- to 60-day disabled list to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for southpaw Shawn Estes, who was acquired from the New York Mets on Thursday.
Panthers re-sign Novoseltsev
SUNRISE, Fla., Aug. 16 (UPI) -- The Florida Panthers Friday came to terms with the last of their restricted free agents, signing right wing Ivan Novoseltsev to a one-year contract.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Novoseltsev, 23, had 13 goals and 16 assists in 29 games last season, and led the Panthers with five game-winning goals.
"Ivan is a huge talent," said Panthers General Manager Rick Dudley. "He's a kid that started to play the kind of game he's capable of last year. We expect that upward spiral to continue."
Novoseltsev spent parts of the previous two seasons in the NHL and has 18 goals and 23 assists in 41 career games.
LSU academic fraud probe completed
BATON ROUGE, La., Aug. 16 (UPI) -- The long-awaited internal investigation of alleged academic fraud involving football players at Louisiana State University is now over.
The 87-page report is now in the hands of the NCAA. It was supposed to be ready in April, but the deadline was pushed back several times.
"It took as long as it did because of our insistence on a thorough investigation and for it to be as exhaustive and complete as it needed to be," LSU Chancellor Mark Emmert told the Baton Rouge Advocate. "And then as we entered the summer, people were spread all over and it was difficult to talk to everyone we needed to."
According to the paper, LSU's internal probe began in January after Roger Grooters, the newly-hired executive director of LSU's Academic Center for Athletes, reported irregularities in the center to football coach Nick Saban and other superiors.
Bahnsen's office then began investigating along with LSU attorney Mike Pharis. In March and April, kinesiology instructors Caroline Owen and Tiffany Mayne each sued the school, saying they were treated harshly by kinesiology department and academic center superiors after they reported alleged plagiarism on papers and tests of athletes.
Mayne also claimed in her lawsuit that she gave failing grades to 10 football players in a fall 2000 kinesiology introductory course.
The Advocate also said among the other academic fraud charges investigated by LSU were academic center tutors writing, rewriting and typing papers for athletes, reading books and finding test answers for athletes, and athletes taking unsupervised tests at the academic center.