MLBPA's Michael Weiner Talks Competitive Balance, HGH Testing Under New CBA
MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner participated in a Q&A with ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, discussing details of the league's new CBA and the negotiations that led to the deal. Below is an excerpt from that interview.
Q: It's great to have labor peace, but not everyone out there is happy. I don't know how aware you are of the complaints that general managers and people in scouting have voiced about the changes in the draft. But their feeling is that this agreement doesn't help competitive balance. ... Do you share those concerns?
Weiner: Yes. The union did not come into these negotiations with proposals to modify the (June) draft. For management, that was perhaps their most aggressive objective. They said that what they were trying to achieve was competitive balance. We questioned them, really at every turn, on whether their proposals really would achieve those goals. ... We did question whether restricting the ability of low-finish clubs in any fashion to spend on the draft really was (good for) competitive balance. And the clubs insisted that that's where they needed to be.
Q: One of the criticisms that has arisen since you announced the details of the agreement is the fact that there's no in-season testing for HGH. Why is there no in-season testing for HGH? And do you foresee that changing at some point?
Weiner: Well, there is no in-season testing now because the players just weren't comfortable yet that we were ready for that. They weren't comfortable enough with the collection process, how the collection process fits with day-to-day play. And they felt that we needed to talk with the membership broadly about those issues. And we will do that starting in spring training this year.
Q: We're now heading for 21 years of labor peace in this sport. How much, if any of that, is due to the fact that people are still scarred by what you went through in 1994 and '95, by that strike?
Weiner: What happened in 1994-95 is crucial to what's happened since then. And maybe we're saying the same thing, in terms of you saying people being scarred and me saying that what happened coming out of those negotiations was that owners finally developed a respect for the union, and for the process of collective bargaining, that didn't exist. Maybe that's saying the same thing. But players don't like to go on strike. Players have never liked to go on strike or be locked out.
Q: Then there's you and (management's lead negotiator) Rob Manfred. I think it's safe to say you have a little different relationship than David Stern and Billy Hunter. How much has your mutual respect and your relationship enabled labor relations in this sport to reach this point, where you can now talk pretty much as partners in trying to make the game a better place?
Weiner: It certainly helps in bargaining that there are open lines of communication, that there is a mutual respect, that there's a familiarity with the negotiating style of the other person, so that things aren't misread or misinterpreted. In the end, though, it's not the negotiators that make the agreement. It's the principals that make the agreement. And if the negotiators have open lines of communication, that's going to help. ... So I think sometimes a little bit more is made of the fact that Rob and I have been able to work well together for a number of years. We've been in the game virtually the same period of time. We've been through a lot of things together. I don't think it would have mattered, though, who was negotiating in '94 and '95 in baseball. And frankly, I don't think it would matter who was negotiating this year in basketball, given what the owners' economic demands were there (ESPN.com, 11/29).
IT'S ABOUT MUTUAL RESPECT: On Long Island, Ken Davidoff wrote following the '94-95 MLB strike that led to the cancellation of the '94 World Series, Commissioner Bud Selig "deserves props for appreciating the error of his ways and dramatically changing them." This marks the "second straight CBA that has been negotiated without dueling conference calls from the owners and players on a daily basis." Weiner and Manfred "treat each other with profound respect." But Davidoff noted it is "not as though the two sides, working in harmony, produced a perfect agreement." The "limits on amateur draft and international spending help only the teams too cheap to dole out money for young talent." Additionally, the "only reason to agree to blood testing for human growth hormone ... is to shut up the dopes (many of whom serve in the United States Congress) who shout 'HGH!' whenever a player enjoys a breakout season" (NEWSDAY, 11/27). In Toronto, Richard Griffin wrote the "positive big picture in the new collective bargaining agreement is that baseball did what needed to be done, proving to the other major sports that work stoppages aren’t the answer." But upon "further review, it’s clear that the huge bargaining chip for both sides was the amateur draft and international free agency, prospects and players that don’t yet pay union dues, whose rights are easy to trade off for the good of the game" (TORONTO STAR, 11/26). In S.F., John Shea wrote it is "clear big-leaguers are better off with the new deal, and it's also clear the union was a big winner" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/25).