Major League Baseball negotiator Randy Levine has done what several predecessors could not. He's on the verge of a contract--at last--with the players' union that would include a salary cap but preserve players' arbitration rights. Now he has to get a few owner holdouts, including the Chicago White Sox's Jerry Reinsdorf, and players' union chief Donald Fehr to make the few concessions needed to close a deal. The old contract expired in 1993.

Two sticking points remain: whether to credit players for the time they spent on strike in 1994 and 1995, and whether to drop unfair-labor complaints they filed then. A vote will be set if a compromise is reached.

Levine said in a statement that "a lot of work is necessary to reach closure," but closing this deal should be relatively easy for the labor veteran. Earlier, as New York City's labor commissioner, Levine hammered out contracts with bus drivers, sanitation workers, and school custodians. Baseball players may be no easier to deal with. But Levine is willing to play hardball.

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