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Baseball union, teams met on improper spending grievance

NEW YORK -- Baseball players' union officials met last month with management of the four teams accused in a grievance of improper spending of revenue-sharing money, people familiar with the grievance process told The Associated Press.

Players' association general counsel Ian Penny and Rick Shapiro, senior adviser to union head Tony Clark, were among the union executives who traveled to meet separately with officials of the Miami Marlins, Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays, the people said, speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity Tuesday because no announcements were authorized. An economist also was among the union officials who attended.

At the time the grievance was filed in February, MLB denied any inappropriate use of revenue-sharing money, as did Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. Oakland said it supported MLB's statement, and new Marlins CEO Derek Jeter defended his team's decision to rebuild and go young.

Patrick Houlihan, Major League Baseball's senior vice president and deputy general counsel for labor relations, was at the four sessions along with MLB chief financial officer Bob Starkey and additional staff from the commissioner's office, the people said.

Teams made presentations and the union officials asked questions. The next step is unclear; a hearing before arbitrator Mark Irvings has not been scheduled.

The four clubs have among the five lowest payrolls in the major leagues and only the Athletics appear headed to the postseason.

Tampa Bay was at a major league low $70.5 million for its 40-man roster, according to Aug. 31 calculations by MLB, just below the Chicago White Sox at $71.3 million. Oakland was at $77.8 million, Miami at $89.5 million and Pittsburgh at $89.8 million. All other teams are at more than $99 million.

Oakland will be disqualified from receiving revenue-sharing money starting with the offseason after the 2020 season, according to baseball's labor contract.

Clark has repeatedly declined comment on the grievance, which was filed after an unusually large percentage of free agents remained unsigned when spring training started.