With the successful conclusion of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), Major League Baseball will enjoy twenty-one years of labor peace. For those of us who remember when this was anything but the case, it is a comforting thought to know that we won’t have to contend with destructive strikes or lockouts, loss of games, even loss of the World Series at least through the 2016 season. MLB and the Players’ Association seem to have discovered a “sweet spot” where the interests of both sides are best served by congenial negotiations rather than confrontation.
There are almost too many changes to note at one sitting; indeed, all of the ramifications and unintended consequences will take at least a season to sort out. Principally, though we can take note of a drug testing regime that will include testing for Human Growth Hormone. It is gratifying that the players have recognized that the integrity of the game itself is at stake and “privacy” issues are a weak excuse. We will no longer have the sorry spectacle of record-breaking players hauled before Congress to give misleading and embarrassing testimony; no more “taking the Fifth”, a welcome development.
In addition, we are going to see realignment in 2013 and perhaps two extra playoff teams as early as next October: that will decided no later than March of 2012. I’m going to say it will happen. We are going to have to adjust to constant interleague play in 2013 but somehow baseball will survive, it always does.
I was surprised to see that most of the financial structures that were adopted will be to the advantage of the large payroll teams, with the exception of a static Luxury Tax threshold in 2012. The teams that have been trying to build through the draft, such as the Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals, and Washington Nationals, are going to be limited in how much they can spend going forward; and an $11 million dollar limit when those clubs have been spending $17 million and more is going to be significant. Critics are saying that players with “other options”, i.e., college, other sports, will no longer be able to be pursued by MLB and the game will be stuck with “mediocre” athletes. This is not to say that won’t happen, but I think if MLB begins to think they are missing out on too many quality athletes, something will change.
It’s also worth noting that budgets available to sign international players are going to be limited to $2.9 million per team. That is really significant if you are Cuban star Yoenis Cespedes or Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. This is another factor that remains to be seen.
We’ll keep talking about this next week.