50 percent of those misnamed ``local revenues,'' to enhance MLB's collective health--particularly, competitive balance. Many players have scant knowledge of today's negotiations. On a team flight recently, a superstar, a very intelligent man, discussed the labor negotiations with a team executive. The player said: We will never accept a salary cap. He was startled to learn that no salary cap has been proposed for eight years. Players who disbelieve MLB's financial difficulties may be convinced by developments already under way. Attendance is down for the third consecutive season (5.7 percent this year, which means almost $80 million in lost ticket revenue alone). Four of the top five amateur players picked in the June draft remain unsigned as teams balk at the players' demands. The San Francisco Giants' payroll is $75 million, up from $65 million last year. Because of back-loaded contracts, just keeping the current roster would make next year's payroll $85 million. But the Giants plan to trim to $70 million. This is a team averaging a league-best 38,658 fans per game in a park that seats 41,503--but a team paying $20 million yearly in interest on that park, which was built without public funds. Negotiations are creeping at a glacial pace, primarily because the union is being dilatory. It may soon set a strike date, under the pressure of which differences will be split--or not. The union might miscalculate, as in 1994 when it assumed the strike begun on Aug. 12 would be brief because the owners would surrender. Instead, the postseason was lost. If a strike starts, do not expect to see baseball before next April. And do not expect to see today's levels of attendance then, or again.