Baseball announces new labor deal
New York, NY (Sports Network) - There continues to be labor peace in baseball.
After the NFL survived its brief labor tiff during the summer and the NBA currently wallows through its acrimonious lockout, Major League Baseball will continue without a work stoppage for another five years.
Owners and players on Tuesday announced a new collective bargaining agreement through the 2016 season. The old pact was set to expire on December 11.
Included in the new deal will be expanded playoffs -- one additional wild card team for each league -- starting no later than 2013, an increase in the minimum salary and blood testing for human growth hormone.
"I am thrilled for the fans that the clubs and the players of Major League Baseball, together, have the opportunity to further build on our game's unprecedented popularity," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement on Tuesday. "Labor peace has proven essential to the best interests of baseball and its millions of fans, who have attended our ballparks in historic numbers over the last eight years. During this remarkable era, we have seen outstanding competitive balance, record business performance and a seamless transition to the new modes in which fans want to embrace our sport. I truly believe the best is yet to come for the game we love."
The conclusion of a new five-year pact will give the sport uninterrupted labor peace for more than 20 years, something once considered unimaginable after constant battles between the owners and players led to strikes in 1981 and 1994 -- the latter of which eventually forced the cancellation of that year's World Series and delayed the start of the 1995 campaign.
"Nobody would ever have believed we would have 21 years of labor peace," Selig added at a joint press conference with union members Tuesday.
It will be baseball's longest period without a strike or lockout since the collective bargaining process was established.
"These agreements address nearly every facet of our collective bargaining relationship and will benefit all involved with our great game -- players past, present and future; each of the 30 clubs; and our legions of loyal and enthusiastic fans," said MLB Players Association executive director Michael Weiner. "These agreements would not have been reached without the broad and personal involvement of our membership -- roughly 250 different players attended at least one bargaining session -- and without the dedication, leadership, determination and patience of the players on our negotiating committee. Player engagement has long been the key to the MLBPA's efforts; this generation of players was as engaged in the bargaining as much as any that I've been privileged to represent."
And they did so without much fanfare. There were no discussions through the media and no threats of legal action or work stoppages. The NFL had its problems this summer, but worked out their issues before things got really ugly, unlike the NBA, which has already canceled six weeks of the season and could lose the entire campaign altogether.
The 2012 baseball season will be the last with an unbalanced American and National Leagues.
Last week, it was announced that the Houston Astros will move from the National League Central to the American League West starting in 2013, creating two leagues of 15 teams apiece. It will necessitate the need for interleague play throughout the campaign.
Another part of the realignment will include the playoff expansion, which could start this season. A decision on adding the two new wild card teams for 2012 will be made no later than March 1.
The two wild card teams from each league will take part in a one-game playoff, with the winner advancing to the Division Series.
Minimum salaries will increase from $414,000 in 2011 to $480,000 in 2012 and will be $500,000 by 2014. Minor league salaries will also increase.
Blood testing for human growth hormone (hGH) will start in spring training of 2012. Random unannounced tests in the offseason won't start until the winter of 2012-13.
There will also be an expansion of instant replay to include fair/foul and "trapped" ball plays. An agreement with the umpires union is still needed before becoming official.
Participation in the All-Star Game will also become mandatory for those players selected, unless injured or otherwise excused by the commissioner's office.
There are also changes in compensation awards to teams who lose free agents, while clubs with the lowest revenues and in the smallest markets will have an opportunity to obtain additional draft picks through a competitive balance lottery. Teams will also start to be penalized for overspending on draft bonuses according to newly established thresholds.
Safety issues addressed in the new agreement include the provision that no new players will be permitted to use low-density maple bats, while all players will wear a new batting helmet that is said to protect better against pitches thrown at 100 miles per hour.
The new deal will expire on December 1, 2016.
11/22 14:41:59 ET