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Union head Weiner sees no salary cap on horizon

BRADENTON, Fla. — The players' union chief sounded hopeful Wednesday that baseball's upcoming labor talks will not lead to a work stoppage.

Michael Weiner said neither side is seeking sweeping revisions to the collective bargaining agreement, including the addition of a salary cap.

"It is not my expectation that the salary cap will be on the table," Weiner said. "I think the owners understand what the history was in 1994, '95 and '96 over the cap. They understand this union's view with respect to caps."

The 232-day baseball strike in 1994-95 was sparked by the owners' initial demand for a cap. The current CBA expires in December, but so far neither side seems inclined to pick a fight.

"I don't like to make predictions," Weiner said with a slight smile. "My sense is neither side is looking to make fundamental or radical changes in the structure of our contract."

Many Pirates fans yearn for a salary cap, perceiving it as a way to make the franchise more competitive with free-spending clubs such as the New York Yankees. However, Pirates president Frank Coonelly repeatedly has said a cap "is not a panacea."

There is unrest brewing in the NFL and NBA, but Weiner does not expect those labor issues to impact baseball's negotiations.

"We support the members of those two unions," Weiner said. "We wish them the best. But every sport has its own history. Our guys take more cues from what our history is as opposed to what's happening in the other sports."

Weiner visited McKechnie Field on Tuesday for the union's annual closed-door meeting with Pirates players. The clubhouse meeting lasted about 90 minutes.

Weiner and his assistants, including former Pirates slugger Bobby Bonilla, will stop at every spring training camp in Florida and Arizona.

Last April, Weiner told the Tribune-Review that the union gave grudging approval to the Pirates' low-budget rebuilding plan. This year, the team's payroll is expected to be around $50 million, a $15 million increase.

"We're looking at what the Pirates are doing, just like we are with the other teams that receive revenue-sharing (money)," Weiner said. "I am confident that the management of the Pirates understands the (CBA) and would love to field a winning team in Pittsburgh. They've got a beautiful facility — as nice as any ballpark in the major leagues — and a great history and tradition of the franchise.

"I don't want to say we're 'concerned' or 'pleased' (with the Pirates' situation). We're monitoring it, and we're certainly hopeful that management's efforts to put a competitive team on the field bears some fruit."

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Pirates Spring Training 2011

Pirates Spring Training 2011

Images from Pirates spring training in Bradenton, Florida.

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