Drifting in Left Field

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This was to be the year baseball got back on its feet. On Oct. 24, during a stirring World Series between the game's two highest-profile teams, capping a season of records and emotional stories, player's union head Donald Fehr and management negotiator Randy Levine shook hands on a deal that was to resolve the issues that caused the 1994 strike and set the league on a smooth course into the next century. The trouble was past, and even the bitterest fans could look forward to next season without trepidation. Apparently, no one told the owners. Owners of the Chicago White Sox and Cubs, Florida, Kansas City and Montreal are known to oppose the agreement, with Boston, Cleveland, Houston, Minnesota and Seattle seen as leaning against the deal. Eight votes against will doom the deal. And that means more of the status quo: no revenue sharing and no luxury tax, both measures aimed at restraining salaries and closing the gap between richer and poorer teams. And for next year, a labor future that is highly dubious. May have questioned why acting Commissioner Bud Selig has not yet come out in favor of a deal struck by Levine, the negotiator he appointed. Selig's statement? "I believe there will be a vote (today)...We shall see what we shall see." Baseball indeed seems rudderless as it hurtles toward another strike.