SBJ/20090817/Special Report

No early talks planned for baseball, where neither side is making many calls for change

Could it be that Major League Baseball, which has endured eight work stoppages, more than any other sport, is the league most likely to come to a peaceful settlement? Ironic as it may seem, sports industry and labor experts say that could happen.

Unlike the other leagues and unions, there are no plans by MLB or the MLB Players Association to begin labor negotiations years before their deal expires in December 2011.

DEADLINE: 12/2011
AT THE TABLE
LEAGUE
UNION
BUD SELIG
MLB COMMISSIONER
MICHAEL WEINER
MLBPA GENERAL
COUNSEL
ROB MANFRED
MLB EVP, LABOR
GENE ORZA
MLBPA COO

Rob Manfred, MLB executive vice president of labor, would not comment on potential bargaining objectives for MLB club owners in 2011, but he indicated they were pleased with the deal in place.

“The current collective-bargaining agreement has operated well from an economic perspective,” Manfred said. “I think the combination of revenue sharing, competitive balance tax and the debt service rule has allowed us to get the kind of financial stability and competitive balance we have been looking for.”

MLB Players Association general counsel Michael Weiner said it was too early to anticipate what challenges the players may face in 2011. (The MLBPA executive board voted in July for Weiner to succeed Donald Fehr as executive director, but that vote still must be ratified by the full membership.)

 “If the current economic environment is still in place when we begin bargaining, I would expect it would have some effect on management’s demands here,” Weiner said. “Having said that, our system is a market-based system. And you would think a market-based system has the flexibility to respond to different economic environments.”

Unlike the other three leagues, there haven’t been many public statements from either side calling for changes to baseball’s system.

The union is investigating whether it wants to bring a collusion case against the league, which could damage relations between the two sides, but a decision had not been announced as of last Wednesday. It’s not clear what effect a collusion case might have on collective bargaining.

Some note that baseball owners still haven’t gotten what owners in the other three leagues have achieved: a salary cap. The MLBPA, historically viewed as the strongest of all the major sports unions, has successfully beaten back efforts to install a cap system.

 Nevertheless, MLB owners “have been trying for one for 20 years,” said labor-side attorney James Quinn, outside counsel to the National Basketball Players Association and the NFL Players Association, who has worked for all four major players unions. “I am sure they will try again.”

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