SBD/Issue 85/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Action Item From MLB Task Force Expected Before Season's Start

Selig Says Meeting Was A
"Great Exchange Of Ideas"
At least one action item from MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's newly formed on-field task force is expected prior to the start of the '10 season following a nearly four-hour session Thursday in Paradise Valley, Arizona. Meeting for the first time since the December formation of the group, the 14-member panel discussed more than 15 separate topics, Selig said, though much like Wednesday's unprecedented gathering of GMs at the owners' meetings, he declined to disclose specific details. There is already consensus on some issues, however, the commissioner said. "This was a great exchange of ideas. I said there would be no sacred cows, and there were no sacred cows. Everything was on the table," Selig said. "The group took this very seriously, and everybody had very strong opinions." He later joked the only subject not discussed was an evaluation of the commissioner. Selig created the group -- assembled from a mix of team owners and execs, GMs, managers, league consultant Frank Robinson and syndicated columnist George Will -- to address a wide range of competition-related issues such as postseason scheduling, instant replay and pace of game play. The recommendations expected to come from the panel will likely be a mix of items that Selig can act on unilaterally, will require owner approval, or will need to be collectively bargained with the MLBPA. Selig said he intends to convene the task force again in the next two to three weeks at a yet-to-be-determined location. "We have a lot of work to do," he said. "I have a sense that action will come out of this soon. This is an action committee. Some will happen pretty quickly, others will take some time" (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). The next owners' meetings are set for May, and Selig said of the task force, "I think I’m going to bring them to that meeting -- that’s how good it was. I know they enjoyed it. They made a major contribution to our understanding of a lot of really tough issues” ("Hot Stove," MLB Net, 1/14).

ECONOMIC FORECAST: Selig said it is too soon to say definitively whether the league will have a better fiscal year this year than in '09. League revenues were roughly flat compared to '08 at around $6.5B, in part because of new revenue from the MLB Network offsetting declining gate receipts. Selig: "We're sort of at the same level, perhaps a little better. You can't get a group of economists to agree on what's going to happen, but I think we'll do OK (this year)." To that end, several individual teams have indicated that ticket sales patterns have closely resembled '09 in that consumers are waiting as long as possible to make purchasing decisions. Will, as he did last January, made a presentation to the owners on his outlook for the national economy. 

STEPPING UP TO THE PLATE: The owners Thursday also heard a presentation from Stand Up 2 Cancer, which MLB has been supporting since '08, on the organization's ongoing work to fight the disease. Selig called the session among the most moving in his 40 years of attending owners' meetings. "I don't think I've ever seen more emotion. I'm very proud of our association with this group. They do tremendous work. This issue is so pervasive now -- everybody's been affected by it in some way" (Fisher).

STRIKING A NEW DEAL: The AP’s Bob Baum reported MLB owners “unanimously ratified a five-year contract with umpires on Thursday, wrapping up a decade of labor peace in a sport once plagued by work stoppages.” A source said that the deal, “expected to be ratified by umpires on Monday, would remove a ban on umpires appearing in consecutive World Series.” A source said that the agreement “also would allow management to use video to evaluate umpires and establish new programs for early retirement” (AP, 1/14).

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