SBD/January 14, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Selig Optimistic About MLB's Economics, Upcoming Labor Talks

Selig says he is more optimistic heading into MLB labor talks than ever before in his tenure

The MLB quarterly owners' meetings concluded Thursday in Paradise Valley, Ariz., with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig offering a highly upbeat prediction for the game's attendance economics in '11 after several years of economic uncertainty. He said, "I feel good about this season. I'm definitely optimistic. Ticket sales are trending very well, and as you know, the last six years have been the best six years we've ever had. This will fall right into that (trend), and maybe move up a bit." Selig was similarly hopeful with regard to labor negotiations, set to begin later this year. The current five-year labor accord with the MLBPA expires after the '11 season. Selig acknowledged he is more optimistic entering the final year of a labor deal than he ever has been. "There is a constructive relationship with the players," he said. "One thing that is really so shockingly different now is that in the '70s, '80s, '90s, even back in the late '60s, there was all this anger expressed. ... You don't see that now. We're on a very constructive path." GMs participated in the labor meetings again, as they have for the past year, and in part because of that involvement, Selig said management is now "very well prepared" for the upcoming talks. Selig, not surprisingly, said he is monitoring far darker labor situations in the other major U.S. team sports, but added "each one has its own indigenous problems" (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). Selig said that he is "ecstatic that baseball's labor situation has been so quiet in comparison" to other leagues. Selig: "There's no question that nobody could've believed -- starting with me -- that we'd have 16 years of labor peace in a sport that had eight work stoppages. That's really remarkable" (MLB.com, 1/13).

GIVE 'EM SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT: MLB.com's Tom Singer reported "possible future expansion of the postseason and of the use of instant replay were the main agenda items in Thursday's three-hour meeting" between Selig and his 14-member Special Committee for On-Field Matters. Three umpires also participated in the meeting, and Selig said prior to the gathering, "We have the umpires to give their thoughts on instant replay, and that's good. They should be involved. The committee asked for them to come, so they are here." Selig anticipated "significant progress on the committee's two foremost issues -- replay, and postseason expansion to include two additional Wild Card teams, which would introduce an additional layer to the playoffs." Alterations to both "theoretically are subject to collective bargaining" with the MLBPA and could enter into negotiations over the next CBA after the current agreement expires on Dec. 11 (MLB.com, 1/13). Selig stressed that "more work needs to be done ... on the idea of expanding the playoffs by adding another wild-card team in each league." He said, "I feel good about it. I think there's a lot of interest but we have some detail to work out. That's really the crucial question." Any changes to replay or the playoffs "will not be implemented until 2012, at the earliest" (AP, 1/13).

WRAPPING UP THE MEETINGS: Selig Thursday confirmed he has yet to decide whether to extend a job offer to former MLB manager Joe Torre to work in the front office in a senior exec role. Torre indicated Wednesday night he was "definitely interested" in such a role. "What he said was absolutely accurate. I thought he articulated all that well," Selig said. The pair was due to talk further on the subject later Thursday. Meanwhile, Selig, as he has for weeks, expressed no concern on an offseason free agent spending spree that thus far has surpassed $1B. "We talked about that, but there was no more emphasis on it than in any other year," he said. "Overall, I'm generally satisfied with how things are going there" (Fisher).

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