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12/02/09 4:44 PM EST
Weiner approved as head of MLBPA
New director wants fewer playoff off-days, best-of-seven DS
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE -- Michael Weiner, for 21 years a lead negotiator for the Major League Baseball Players Association, was confirmed as the union's new executive director in a unanimous vote by its executive board Wednesday morning. "It's both humbling and exciting to have the confidence of the players," Weiner said on a conference call with reporters following his election, which culminated an emotional annual meeting of the MLBPA. During the 45-minute conference, Weiner figuratively rolled up his sleeves and went to work with his take on several topical issues, including expanding the Division Series to a seven-game format while concurrently shortening the length of the postseason. Weiner's "inaugural address" also touched on globalization of the First-Year Player Draft, the current slow-starting market for free agents, and a preview of the negotiations of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2011. "This is a very important moment in the history of this institution. This union has been around since 1966, and in all that time there have been few changes in its leadership, so Donald Fehr stepping down makes it a meaningful time, a chance to reflect on what has been accomplished." With Wednesday's action, Fehr formally vacated the position he had held since 1983, which he had announced on June 22 that he would be leaving. Weiner, 47, Fehr's hand-picked successor, becomes the fourth head of the union put on the labor map during Marvin Miller's 1966-82 tenure. "Last night," Weiner reflected, "we covered the entirety of Don's tenure. We talked about what the union has accomplished ... the sacrifices players made to reach the point where we are now. "I've been further humbled by what has taken place the last couple of days, and to be mentioned in the same sentence as Marvin Miller and Donald Fehr. To be entrusted with the responsibility of moving forward is both very humbling and meaningful, and I'm really looking forward to it." During his more than two decades as an attorney for the union, including being in the forefront of CBA negotiations in 2002 and '06, Weiner developed a rapport with players that on Wednesday turned into anticipation. "Having worked with Michael the last 13, 14 years, I feel absolutely privileged and excited to have him on board," said Tony Clark, the recently retired first baseman who remains an MLBPA executive board member. Detroit outfielder Curtis Granderson, another board member, called Weiner "the obvious choice." "The chance to work alongside him has been an honor and everyone is very excited, ready to move forward and accomplish great things for Major Leaguer Baseball," Granderson said. Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, one of the younger members of the board, said: "Based on my three years, one thing I can tell you is that Michael cares for the players and for the game. His experience and qualifications excite each of us as players. It's a perfect fit moving forward." Looking forward, Weiner, heretofore an influential but behind-the-scenes player, gave his views on: Seven-game Division Series: "There is a lot of sentiment for that among players, as a fairer competitive issue. I expect it'll have to be dealt with in collective bargaining, so would have to wait until after the 2011 season." Abridged postseason: "Everyone is in agreement that we need some adjustment. I am a hockey fan, and the scheduling was more what you would expect from hockey. I was pleased to hear the Commissioner indicate that he wanted to take a look at it. We have to be respectful of our TV partners, but we also have to be concerned with competitive aspects. "The schedule is more likely to be dealt with for 2010 [as opposed to a seven-game Division Series proposal]. And, no, the two really aren't contradictory; a properly-constructed schedule could accommodate a longer Division Series, and still yield a shorter period of play." The free-agent market: "I'm concerned a little bit; it's been slow. It was also late-starting, by virtue of when the World Series ended. Given the three [playoff] rounds now, changes in the calendar may be required, and we may want to give consideration to that in the next bargaining. But it's too early to draw any conclusions with respect to how this market will play out, particularly since the landscape just got more clarified [with Tuesday's deadline to make arbitration offers to ranked free agents]. The Draft: "[A global Draft] was first raised by ownership in 2002, and the players were fine with having all players subject to the same rules for entering, but there were some details to work through. And there is a second separate issue involved -- a slotting system for players drafted -- that is far different. The union has always stood for players' right to bargain individually for compensation." Payroll minimums: "A salary floor was first presented as a proposal in 1993. That can be viewed as a precursor to a salary cap, and you know what has been the position of this union on that." Drug testing: "It's working great, but that doesn't mean it can't be improved. There will be some changes for 2010, but I'm not prepared to announce them. If reliable urine testing for HGH [human-growth hormone] is devised, it automatically goes into the program, no modification to the agreement required. But I'm perfectly comfortable with where we are with the program in general." 2011 CBA talks: "We spent some time here preparing for the next round of bargaining with respect to issues owners have identified as of concern to them. It's two years away, and that's not too early to prepare, but plenty of time for specifics to play out. "With [MLB COO] Bob DuPuy and [MLB vice president of labor relations] Rob Manfred, there has been a productive working relationship. And that's a good thing, making it less likely there will be problems because of lack of communication or personal animosity. That's hope for leading to successful bargaining, but not a guarantee."