MLB, players set to announce labor deal
Valid through 2016, new agreement includes testing for HGH
NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have reached a preliminary agreement on a new five-year Basic Agreement and are expected to announce it on Tuesday afternoon at 1 ET in a news conference that will air live on MLB.com and MLB Network.
The current deal, which was signed without any rancor in 2006, is set to expire on Dec. 11. The new deal will ensure labor peace through the 2016 season, giving the league a span of 21 years since the last work stoppage.
The conclusion of this latest labor agreement, which now needs to be formalized in writing and ratified independently by the players and owners, represents a seamless and successful first go-round at the bargaining table between Commissioner Bud Selig and the union's executive director, Michael Weiner, who took over that position from Don Fehr in December 2009.
Tuesday's press conference will cap a week full of announcements for Selig, who has overseen numerous changes to baseball since taking over as Commissioner in 1992, including the advent of the Wild Card and the Division Series, Interleague Play, the use of instant replay, and testing and penalties for the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
On Thursday at their final joint quarterly meeting of the year, the owners approved the transfer of the Houston Astros from outgoing owner Drayton McLane to a group headed by Houston businessman Jim Crane. With that, Selig announced that the Astros would move from the National League Central to the American League West in 2013 and that two more Wild Card teams would be added to the playoff mix as early as next season. The Wild Card teams in each league would most likely face each other in a one-game play-in for the Division Series.
Although Weiner has long been involved in baseball negotiations as one of the union's top legal counsels, this is his first as its chief. In 2006, when Fehr was still at the helm, negotiations began in June and a five-year deal was done behind the scenes and announced in St. Louis during that year's World Series. These negotiations were the third spearheaded by Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president of labor relations and human resources, none of them having included a work stoppage.
Both changes announced last week were resolved in collective bargaining because they involved scheduling. It's the first change in the postseason since the Wild Cards were added and MLB went to a three-division format in both leagues in 1994. It's the first realignment since the Brewers moved from the AL to the NL in 1998, ushering in the era of Interleague Play.
Weiner said this past summer that the players were largely in favor of evening the two leagues at 15 teams apiece, with each of the six divisions holding five teams for competitive balance reasons.
The new CBA will reportedly include a raise in the minimum salary from $414,000 this year to $480,000 in 2012, and ultimately to more than $500,000; blood testing for Human Growth Hormone as early as next spring, with a 50-game suspension for any MLB player failing their first test; a luxury tax on bonuses for players signed through the annual First-Year Player Draft; and changes in Draft-pick compensation for the signing of free agents.
The labor talks were conducted behind the scenes starting in January. The new deal gives MLB continued unfettered labor peace since the end of the strike that wiped out the final third of the 1994 regular season, that year's postseason and delayed the start of the '95 season for almost a month. But peace didn't come easily. Until a deal was reached in New York, as players waited on buses to go to ballparks right at the deadline in August 2002, every labor negotiation between the owners and players from the mid-1970s on included either a strike or a lockout.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.