The latest negotiations in baseball's never-ending strike were scheduled to begin here early this week, in the shadow of Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. The inevitable descriptions of ''dreamland'' discussions or ''Mickey Mouse'' talks were scuttled, though, when the National Labor Relations Board called representatives of the owners and players to Washington.
The purpose of the meeting: to let the two sides know where things stand regarding charges of unfair labor practice brought by the players against management.
If the board rules that the owners unfairly eliminated salary arbitration and individual bargaining last month, the case could go to court, forcing a reinstatement of the old rules. Such an outcome could conceivably prompt the players to return to work, a move that the owners might counter by calling a lockout.
The two sides, originally at odds over a proposed salary cap, still disagree on some significant economic issues. The owners, however, are supposedly preparing their ''best offer,'' as requested by special mediator Bill Usery.
If that's not good enough for the players, and many doubt that it will be, the start of the season could be postponed. On the other hand, the owners seem committed to starting April 2, even if it means using teams consisting of replacement players.