MLB, MLBPA Reportedly Agree To New CBA, With Big Changes In Store
The new five-year CBA between the MLB and MLBPA is "done and will be announced Monday," according to sources cited by Ken Rosenthal of FOXSPORTS.com. The deal will "ensure labor peace for 21 straight years," making MLB the "model for labor relations in professional sports." Rosenthal notes it might be MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's "proudest accomplishment." The new agreement will "not be perfect; several GMs already are livid over the new restraints on draft spending." Other details, "including the creation of two additional wild-card playoff berths, also are certain to spark debate." But while "reasonable people can disagree over parts of the deal, the players and owners at least understand that no issue is big enough to bring down the entire sport" (FOXSPORTS.com, 11/18). Following MLB’s quarterly owners’ meeting in Milwaukee Thursday, MLB Exec VP/Labor Relations & HR Rob Manfred said that he "was 'really confident' of an agreement being reached -- the most either side has said about the progress of a negotiation that, unlike some of those in the past, has played out almost entirely out of view of the media." In DC, Sheinin & Kilgore note the "critical negotiating point this year has been changes to the amateur draft, with Selig pushing for a cap on signing bonuses and the union resisting." It now "appears the compromise will be a financial disincentive for teams to exceed a specific ceiling on overall draft bonuses -- similar to the 'luxury' tax for teams exceeding a set payroll threshold." In exchange for the union "dropping its opposition to a restraint on draft bonuses, management reportedly has agreed to a change in draft-pick compensation for signing free agents, reducing the number of 'elite' free agents to whom the compensation is attached" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/18). Baseball writer Murray Chass noted the reality is that Selig "doesn’t want a work stoppage." He has "lived through eight stoppages (five strikes, three lockouts), and he doesn’t want a ninth that would wreck his legacy on his way out of the door next year" (MURRAYCHASS.com, 11/17).
MORE IS BETTER: Selig in Milwaukee Thursday announced that MLB will "add another wild-card playoff team in each league as early as the 2012 season." The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Blair notes the teams with the "first and second-best records among non-division winners will meet in what Selig said would most likely be a one-game playoff, with the winner advancing to the best-of-five division series." Selig "felt moved to make the announcement even before the formal conclusion of negotiations won a new" CBA with the MLBPA, because the union "has long supported" the initiative (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/18). Selig: "The greatest thing this sport has going for it is its history and its tradition, and the more you’re around the more you understand that. You try to disturb that as little as you can. But I think this is great for the long term" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/18). USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale notes the MLBPA "helped bring about" the change by agreeing to expanded playoffs if teams "had a more even chance to win a berth" (USA TODAY, 11/18). LHB Sports Entertainment & Media President & CEO Lee Berke said that "given recent increases in media rights, the extra tier of playoffs could help MLB achieve a 25%-50% increase in annual rights fees after its current contracts with Fox and Turner expires following the 2013 season" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/18).
ONE AND DONE? In Boston, Nick Cafardo notes one of the "biggest points of contention has been a one-game playoff vs. a three-game playoff for the wild cards." Networks "tend to favor the one-game, sudden-death format because in instances when there have been one-game playoffs to determine postseason spots, they have been exciting." Selig said, "We haven’t come to a final decision, but if I had to guess today, it would be the one game" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/18). On Long Island, Ken Davidoff notes TV execs "prefer the drama of a one-game setup; some baseball people don't like the idea of their playoff run lasting only one game." But others "didn't like the idea of the division winners sitting idly during a three-game series" (NEWSDAY, 11/18). CBSSPORTS.com's Danny Knobler wrote, "We'll accept the idea of two wild cards in each league, and we'll come to love the idea of the one-game wild-card playoff that will launch each October of playoff baseball." Knobler: "Some critics are calling it 'manufactured drama,' but seriously, what's wrong with manufacturing a little drama?" (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/17). MLB Network's Chris Rose said of a one-game playoff, “I love it, but you can understand it: The pundits are going to be beating their chests saying this is not the way baseball was intended to be” (“Intentional Talk,” MLB Network, 11/17).
SELLING THE DRAMA: MLB Network’s Sean Casey said a one-game playoff concept is "awesome." Casey: "It adds more to all the cities, it gets more people involved, gets more teams involved, gets fans excited. I think it’s going to be great for baseball” ("Intentional Talk," MLB Network, 11/17). SI's Tom Verducci said, "One game, knockout game, sudden death. Unbelievable. …Great drama built in every year” ("Hot Stove," MLB Network, 11/17). Columnist Kevin Blackistone said, "One other city is going to be more excited about the end of the season because their team looks like it’s going to have a chance to get in, and that's what Major League Baseball wants, excitement” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 11/17). The Chicago Tribune’s Brian Hamilton was asked whether a one-game playoff is fair, and he said, “Fair is probably not going to be part of the discussion. It’s what’s going to get people excited and frankly, if people think it’s unfair and are arguing about it and talking about it and screaming at each other, it’s just going to keep more people interested. It’s fodder for talk. That’s all they’re going to look for with that” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 11/17). SportsNet N.Y.’s Adam Schein said, “I hate the one-game playoff. It is just too arbitrary. I liked it as is.” The N.Y. Daily News’ Frank Isola: “I don’t mind adding more teams. Here’s my thing though: The first round though should be four out of seven” (“Loud Mouths,” SportsNet New York, 11/17).
BIG MOVE: MLB.com's Adam McCalvy noted after the announcement that the Astros will move to the AL "many questions" concerning scheduling remained unanswered. Among them were "just how many extra Interleague games each team will play." Selig said that MLB's scheduling committee is "working on a series of options." That group is "headed by" Phillies President & CEO David Montgomery and MLB Senior VP/Scheduling & Club Relations Katy Feeney. Selig "urged patience while that group works out the best solution" (MLB.com, 11/17). In L.A., Mike DiGiovanna notes the Astros' move will "result in a more balanced schedule in which teams probably will play 72 games in their division, 60 games against teams in the other two divisions in their league and 30 interleague games" (L.A. TIMES, 11/18). NBCSports.com's Chris Calcaterra said, “I don't like the fact that we're going to have constant pervasive interleague play. Beyond the first weekend and a couple of marquee series, it's boring now. Having it all year, it's less of a thing and less of something we're going to fixate on" (“NBC Sports Talk,” Versus, 11/17).
DAY OF CHANGE: ESPN.com's Jayson Stark notes the announcement "doesn't merely unleash a ripple effect." It "unleashes a tidal wave of change in this sport." Stark: "And this, you realize, is just the beginning. Once the new labor deal gets finished, there's a whole lot more coming -- changes that will affect big-league payroll disparity, revenue sharing, the draft, free agency and the broad scope of the business of baseball" (ESPN.com, 11/17). In N.Y., Tyler Kepner writes the addition of an extra wild-card team in each league "seems more risky because it opens up the possibility that a third-place team could win the World Series." This would "further dilute the importance of excellence over a 162-game schedule." Kepner: "But that is modern sports. ... Business is better when consumers stay interested as long as possible, and baseball would still have fewer playoff teams than any of the major sports" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/18). The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham said, "The interleague play is really going to change how some teams look at things. National League teams could say we need a player who could be a good DH for those 15 games where they play in American League parks, and American League teams could start to look at players who are primarily DHs ... as to how much value those guys have if you can’t use them for 15 games a year” (“NESN Daily,” NESN, 11/17).