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MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner yesterday took their customary turns meeting with the Baseball Writers Association of America at the All-Star Game. Selig and Weiner were in agreement on the general health and popularity of the sport, but they diverged on several issues, most notably the '07 Mitchell Report. Despite the recent acquittal of former MLBer Roger Clemens on charges that he lied to Congress regarding his steroid use, which cast some doubt on the MLB-commissioned report, Selig said, "I'm as proud of the Mitchell Report today as I was then. I took a lot of criticism at the time internally and externally. No other sport had an outside person come in before." But Weiner during his turn rebutted, "I don't think it was a productive exercise. I don't think the report was right to do. If not for the report, you would not have had a Roger Clemens trial. Roger was exonerated, but as Roger would tell you, there was really no winner."
INCREASED HGH TESTING: MLB and the union this offseason plan to discuss a potential expansion of blood testing for HGH. The current labor deal called for testing during Spring Training this year as a sort of trial run, and talks will focus on the potential of additional, random testing during the regular season and playoffs (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). In Boston, Nick Cafardo notes Weiner "soon will have his executive committee begin asking players about the subject and holding discussions about the possibility of year-round testing." Weiner said, "We have just elected a new executive board with player reps, and over the second half of the season we’ll [determine] what the consensus is. ... I’m not going to predict which way it’s going to go, but there’s at least a possibility we could have in-season testing of some form as soon as next year” (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/11).
JAPAN COMMITS TO WBC: Weiner said that Japan "has committed" to the World Baseball Classic. However, in Toronto, Bob Elliott notes Japanese players "are not happy with the split they have received from MLB and either want more cash or they won't be there." Weiner: "I’m not worried about player participants from USA players. Not all were interested in 2006 and 2009. We’re the only country that feels that. Talk to Latin, Canadian or Asian players. [They're] all excited about the WBC" (TORONTO SUN, 7/11). Weiner said that he "believes the 2013 event will be the best yet" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 7/10).
DRAFT SYSTEM SUCCESSFUL: In Toronto, Richard Griffin writes the '12 MLB First-Year Player Draft, "with its complicated slotting system, offered the [MLBPA] the closest thing to a hard salary cap they have ever had to deal with." While Selig "seemed satisfied with how the process turned out, he reserves judgment until after the July 13 deadline for all draft picks." Weiner "noticed different strategies by different organizations." Weiner said, "There’s no question that one of the positives of the things we’ve seen is that different teams have had different approaches to getting that flexibility, and generally speaking that’s a good thing. Exactly how it’s worked out in terms of overdrafting or underdrafting, how teams decided to try and use the resources, that’s something we’re going to have to carefully study" (TORONTO STAR, 7/11).
CIRCLE THE DATE: After a brief, agreed-upon extension past the July 1 deadline for MLB to give the MLBPA a draft schedule for next year, union officials are now reviewing a proposed slate. With the Astros' upcoming relocation to the AL, there will be interleague play everyday, and Weiner said teams will play 18-20 interleague games each, with a heightened focus on equality of interleague opponents among division rivals. Also likely is the elimination of home-and-home interleague series between natural geographic rivals, with series such as Nationals-Orioles or Yankees-Mets happening only once in most years. "It wasn't fair to have six games against an opponent that other teams in your division don't," Weiner said (Fisher).
TO THE VIDEO TAPE: Selig said that MLB "would be expanding instant replay, at least a little, 'when we have the technology to do it.'" Selig added that the proposed instant replay expansion "would cover balls hit in play down the foul lines and balls that might have been trapped, mostly in the outfield." He said that he "has been polling many of his trusted aides and advisers," including MLB Exec VP/Baseball Operations Joe Torre, former MLB manager Tony La Russa, Tigers manager Jim Leyland and Angels manager Mike Scioscia. Selig said, "Nobody is anxious to increase instant replay any more (beyond the new proposal)" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 7/11). Selig: "I can tell you very candidly that the appetite for more instant replay in the sport is very low" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 7/11).
BAY WATCH: In a confusing turn, Selig at one point said the long-running A's stadium issue, now in its 40th month of league study, is squarely in his hands. But moments later, he said he is awaiting answers to questions posed to both the A's and Giants. "If you really sit and really think about all the issues, you'll understand why it is so complex," he said. Selig was non-committal on whether the topic will be placed on the agenda for next month owners' meetings in Denver (Fisher). He said of the Giants' opposition to the A's potential relocation to San Jose, "We're asking a lot of questions to both parties, and we'll continue to ask questions until we get answers, and frankly, both clubs right now need to answer a lot of questions for us on many subjects" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 7/11).
WHO'S GOT NEXT? Selig said an announcement on the '14 All-Star Game will arrive in a "reasonably short time," with Target Field long considered the foregone conclusion to host for that game. Nationals Park, meanwhile, is gaining momentum as the choice for '15, according to industry sources. Despite a current backlog of NL candidate cities, Selig said he intends to maintain the current alternating format between AL and NL host cities for the event, in part due to the fact that the game determines of home field advantage in the World Series. Citi Field will host next year's game, and a contingent of roughly two dozen Mets staffers were in K.C. this week shadowing their Royals counterparts (Fisher). Selig said, "I'm amazed at how intense people are wanting to get an All-Star Game right now. ... Ten, 15 years ago, I'm not even joking, you had to beg people to take it. You had to offer some other kind of carrots for them to take the game" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 7/11).
QUIET ON THE SET: In Boston, Michael Silverman reports Selig "has not seen" the film "Ballplayer: Pelotero," produced by Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, but the commissioner "was told it is 'inaccurate' and 'unfair.'" Selig said he "expressed concerns to Red Sox ownership and that was it." Selig: "What they did from there is up to them." Weiner said, "I don’t think it’s Bobby’s involvement. When you expose the kinds of practices, it’s not an easy thing for MLB to see, and I know that it’s not a complimentary treatment of some of the facets of the way MLB has handled it down there" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/11).
Negotiators from the NHL and the NHLPA "met for three hours in Toronto Tuesday to discuss a new collective bargaining agreement, and will convene on Friday and again next week," according to Steve Zipay of NEWSDAY. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the sides' fourth session since talks began in N.Y. on June 29 was "positive." Bettman: "The process is moving forward in a constructive manner." NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr said that some of the issues discussed yesterday "involved 'day-to-day player working conditions' such as travel, but both sides declined to discuss details and said there is a lot of work ahead." Eleven players attended the session (NEWSDAY, 7/11). Both Fehr and Bettman agreed that it is "too early to comment on whether the start of next season is in jeopardy." In Toronto, Mark Zwolinski notes the sides have "exchanged positions on big-ticket items: revenue sharing, team salary floors, free agency, structuring of multi-year contracts, escrow percentages and conference realignment" (TORONTO STAR, 7/11). SPORTING NEWS' Jesse Spector wrote there is "no hint yet as to what shape the NHL’s talks with the NHLPA ... are taking, but the early signs are positive -- at least insofar as they aren’t negative." The "good news for hockey fans is that the antagonism between the league and union that resulted in a season-canceling lockout in 2004-05 does not appear to have carried over to these talks." Like Bettman, Fehr is "will aware of the stakes" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 7/6).
IN HIS OWN WORDS: An anonymous NHLer writing for YAHOO SPORTS noted there are "still too many unknowns at this point to make any real predictions" on whether there will be a lockout. The player wrote, "If the rumors are true and the NHL proposes to bring the player's share of hockey related revenues (HRR) down to 50 percent, that could elicit a push-back from the players." The "good news is that the NHL had seven straight seasons of record revenues." The "bad news, for some teams, is that the increases in revenue haven't been evenly distributed, making it increasingly difficult for them to spend even to the floor." Bettman "got the system he wanted, one that he assured us would give us 30 healthy teams." The player: "My opinion is that if we have teams that are 'sick,' as we surely do, then simply re-setting salaries once again will neither be palatable to the players nor will it really fix the problem. Not in the long term. ... If we are going to be serious about creating an environment in which all teams can be financially successful, then it's going to take considerably more thought than simply reducing the cap by 10-15 percent. Maybe there are some markets in which it's simply not realistic to expect that the situation can be salvaged" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/10). ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote under the header, "NHL Owners Can't Cry Poor This Time." Even though there "isn't one major issue like a salary cap confronting the two sides this time around, the core theme remains the same: the league demanding that the players help the league's teams save themselves from themselves." The owners are "back looking for even more cost certainty because, as revenues have risen through the roof, the playing field hasn't necessarily remained particularly level" (ESPN.com, 7/10).