TV deals OK'd in quiet meetings
Owners gathering reflects baseball's current peaceful state
CHICAGO -- No longer filled with weighty issues, the postseason Owners Meetings held Thursday were quietly and easily completed."This is one of the earliest [ending] meetings we've ever had," Commissioner Bud Selig said during his usual post-meeting remarks to the media. "This is amazing."
The owners unanimously approved the new television deals with FOX and Turner Sports that were announced at the All-Star Game and World Series, respectively. That was considered to be a formality. It was.The twin deals, plus an already established partnership with ESPN, are expected to generate about $5.5 billion over the course of the agreements, which extend through the 2013 postseason. In the latest agreement with Turner, TBS will have the National League Championship Series in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013 and the American League Championship Series in 2008, 2010 and 2012. As part of the package reached earlier this summer, FOX will broadcast the ALCS in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013, and the NLCS in 2008, 2010 and 2012. FOX will continue to carry the All-Star Game and the World Series on its over-the-air network through 2013. The World Series will begin on Tuesday nights for the foreseeable future after 22 years of opening on Saturday nights. Coupled with the new labor deal, which was approved by the owners via conference call earlier this month and guarantees peace through the 2011 season, the sport is, by all accounts, in solid financial condition. Major League Baseball set records this season in total attendance (76.2 million), gross revenue ($5.1 billion) and average player salaries ($2.8 million). Even World Series shares set a new record this fall. MLB announced after the meetings that a full share for each of the winning Cardinals in their five-game victory over the Tigers was $362,173.07, surpassing the previous high of $324,532.72 per full share for the 2005 World Series-champion White Sox. A full share for the Tigers was $291,667.68. The entire postseason pool was $55.6 million, about $15 million more than last year. Selig said that he wasn't worried about the recent prosperity leading to a huge offseason spending spree by the clubs on free agents, even though the Cubs have already spent $73 million to retain third baseman Aramis Ramirez for five years, the Blue Jays are reportedly about to pay $22 million to sign free agent Frank Thomas for two seasons, and the Red Sox bid $51 million for the rights to negotiate with Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. "I don't know yet, we haven't gotten started," Selig said. "There have been a few things, but I'm not really worried. Look, time will tell." Selig also said there was no discussion about Matsuzaka at the meeting, during which the MLB constitution was extended, with a few technical amendments, until 2012 by a 29-1 vote. "[Matsuzaka] was kind of a unique situation," Selig said. "There were 10 clubs that bid and there were some very substantial bids."
As far as the November meetings go, these are good days indeed. Some of the owners' postseason meetings were pretty tumultuous during the past five years.In 2001, the owners voted to contract two teams, though that plan never came to fruition. In 2002, after the labor negotiations went down to the wire and a work stoppage was avoided for the first time since 1972, the owners established a relocation committee and announced that the Expos would be playing 22 of their home games in Puerto Rico. In 2003, the relocation committee conceded that it had to wait another year before a new home could be found for the Expos. In 2004, the owners didn't have enough votes to approve the transfer of the Expos to Washington, D.C., amidst discord in the District City Council. In 2005, the owners approved the second change in the drug policy negotiated between MLB and the players association three years earlier. Now, all is quiet in baseball and in the owners' November meetings.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.