Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Major League Baseball – giving Thanks

There is a new five year Major League Baseball Collective Bargaining Agreement that ensures 21 years and counting of labor peace for the Boys of Summer.

The National Basketball Association is in the midst of a protracted lockout that could, and will likely, result in the cancellation of the 2011-12 NBA season. The National Hockey League became the first major North American professional sports league to lose an entire season to a labor battle in 2004-05. The National Football League reached the edge of their labor abyss before agreeing to a 10-year CBA.

Baseball was never in doubt.

Bud Selig didn’t play much of a role in the negotiations. While David Stern is front and center on behalf of NBA owners, Roger Goodell on behalf of NFL owners and Gary Bettman on behalf of NHL owners, Selig the former owner of the Milwaukee Brewers turns labor negotiations on behalf of ownership to Ron Manfred.

Bud offered this when the labor agreement was announced:

“I believe that this five year agreement will continue the remarkable popularity and surge that baseball has been on. I've said this often, and I'll say it to all of you today, nobody back in the '70s, the '80s, and the early '90s would ever believe that we'd have 21 years of labor peace. It's really remarkable. Clearly it's the longest period of labor peace that this sport has ever had.

“It's interesting to note that baseball's popularity has manifested itself in a myriad of ways. It's been at its greatest in the last 15 or 16 years. I think that one of the primary reasons, if not the primary reason is labor peace.

“I think at least from my standpoint, a lot of us didn't understand how serious the labor confrontations of the '70s, and the '80s were. Usually I (list each lockout year)…because I can still remember, but how much it really had hurt the sport. Now with the great growth of this sport, and this year ended as well as it could have, and this is another step forward.

“So this is really a very proud day for us. By the way, it needs, obviously, clearly ratification from the players as well as from all the owners, and that process will begin today, so we have a lot of work yet to do before this deal is done.”

The 1994 MLB strike hurt the game. The World Series was canceled ultimately killing the Montreal Expos. The Expos had baseball’s best record in 1994. Whatever fan base the Expos had before the 1994 MLB season ended in mid-August was gone when baseball returned in 1995.

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) have worked together to ensure what happened 16 years ago never happens again. It remains to be seen if MLB will continue to enjoy labor peace beyond this newest agreement, but it sends the right message to baseball fans.

Michael Weiner, who succeeded Don Fehr as the executive director for the MLBPA, echoed many of Selig’s comments.

“Bud spoke of labor peace, and labor peace is good. It's better than labor war, for sure. But the goal of the collective bargaining is not just to have peace. Not just to reach an agreement. This is a good day for baseball, not just because we reached an agreement, but because of the quality and the nature of the agreement that was reached, an agreement that will benefit all players.

“Bud used the word historic, and there are some historic changes in this agreement, some that the players have sought for a long, long time. There are benefits here that will run to young players to veteran players, to international players, to former players. It's our job, the union's job, to secure the benefits for players and to protect and further players’ rights, and that's exactly what we did in this agreement. It's an agreement that will benefit all clubs, the largest market clubs, the smallest market clubs and everyone in between.

“It’s the Commissioner's job and Rob's job and Dan's job and the staff's job to do that. They bargained hard for their constituents and they bargained successfully. This is also an agreement that will benefit the game and the industry.

“I've been working for the union for 23 years, and this is the first round of bargaining where we're able to really engage on matters that can be of benefit to all involved with the game.

“The first time in my experience that it didn't matter whose idea it was, it didn't matter who brought a particular idea to the table or who didn't, but we engaged on matters that I think are exciting for everybody who loves the game.

“Maybe the best example of that is the realignment. The 15 15 realignment that Bud and the owners announced last week. This was a union idea from over a decade ago. It was the owners' side of the table that brought it into this round of bargaining. None of that mattered. It was a good idea. It was an idea that the parties worked hard with that's allowed us to come up with an exciting new post season format. That kind of bargaining is something that these parties haven't previously been able to achieve.

“There are other examples as well, for example, in the areas of health and safety. The parties jointly brought to the table issues related to drug testing to our joint drug agreement to how we deal with players with alcohol difficulties, with players with concussions, issues of equipment and safety that the parties jointly addressed.

“And there are a number of others in the reserve system and in the draft area, and revenue sharing is just a couple of examples. Of these are exciting changes that will better the game and help grow the industry.

“That's why I say it's not just a good day for baseball, but a good day for collective bargaining. When collective bargaining works, you have creative, determined, even dogged people on both sides of the table, and that's what we had here. The parties are pursuing in good faith the priorities of their constituents. But at the same time, they're looking for areas of common interest, areas of common benefit.

“The process wasn't easy. It's never easy. It's always harder than you think it's going to be. But it was a successful process. It's a good day for collective bargaining and for baseball.” Weiner commented.

There isn’t a great deal to argue about in the new MLB CBA. However one clause being included that is ‘interesting’ is a cap on spending at the annual June entry draft.

Two issues make this clause questionable and worrisome at the very least.

The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Kansas City Royals spent more money on players each organization had drafted after the June 2011 entry draft. The Pirates and the Royals rarely, if ever, spend money in the free agent market.

They’re small market MLB franchises. The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox can’t help but spend money on big name free agents. If the Pirates and Royals are going to be competitive they need to draft the right players and keep them for four to six years before they become arbitration eligible and free agents.

Small market franchises rely on the draft to stay competitive. Just look at the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Kansas City Royals drafted and signed Derek “Bubba” Starling, a center fielder and multi-sport phenom from Gardner Edgerton High School in Missouri to a three year $7.5 million contract.

Startling had a football scholarship waiting for him from Nebraska if his agent Scott Boras didn’t reach an agreement on behalf of his client with the Royals. Starling is key to the Royals future.

And Boras – baseball’s most affluent agent had a great deal to say about how MLB is dealing with their entry draft.

"This will hurt all of baseball," Boras told USA TODAY in a telephone interview. "This was not good for the game at all. There have to be some amendments to it because this dramatically impacts the game. It goes against the revenue sharing concept. This dramatically affects parity. That concept is gone. A team's chance to dramatically improve has been dramatically reduced.

"This will affect (general managers') careers. This will affect scouts' careers. This is restricting their expertise. The value they invest in scouting is no longer worth the payment of the scouting department. Their ability has about been minimized by 30 to 40% because they can't draft a certain way. The intellect of scouting has been reduced. You want to pay for talent, but now it's going to be governed by artificial behavior.

"Try to find a GM who's for this. I know of no GM who's in favor of these changes. Try to find a scouting director. No one is in favor of this but Bud [Selig]. This was a mandate by the commissioner to get the deal done.

"Now, if you're Tampa Bay, and if you win, you get to spend half as much as the Chicago Cubs do in the draft. It makes no sense." Boras told USA Today

He “was” a two sport star who chose a small market MLB team because the Royals could pay him to choose baseball. If the Royals were capped and could not pay him that much money, he would have gone to college, played football and potentially left baseball behind.

Long-term, MLB didn’t run the risk of losing a potential star to the National Football League. Short-term the Kansas City Royals are sending the right message of their fan base.

A real win for Major League Baseball. A win/win for MLB – the new clause included in the new MLB CBA may make this a lose/lose for baseball.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

Labels: , , , , , , ,