Could MLB have a new labor deal by end of the World Series?
With the NFL and NBA in the midst of lockouts, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Assn. said Tuesday he hopes baseball will reach a new collective-bargaining agreement by the end of the World Series.
The current baseball labor agreement between players and owners expires Dec. 11. The two sides have met for negotiations on a weekly basis since spring training, and union chief Michael Weiner said he hopes for an agreement by the end of the World Series, so that the off-season focus can be on player movement rather than labor negotiations.
"In 2006, it was very productive for us to be done before the signing season," Weiner said. "There's a lot of benefit to everybody to get it done on that kind of schedule."
Weiner and Commissioner Bud Selig each met with the Baseball Writers Assn. of America on Tuesday in Phoenix. Among the highlights:
-- Selig scoffed at suggestions the All-Star game has lost its luster, or that players have skipped the game at an alarming rate. "You'd think we were calling up guys from Omaha," he said.
-- The commissioner insisted he wants to retain the link awarding home-field advantage in the World Series to the league that wins the All-Star game. The union plans to fight that link in collective bargaining, but Selig said Fox likes the link as a way to promote the All-Star game. "Doing things to help your television partners is not unconstitutional," Selig said.
-- Selig and Weiner each said major realignment is off the table. Weiner said the players want five teams in each division and 15 teams in each league so that each team has an equal chance to reach the playoffs.
-- Selig said baseball would expand its limited use of instant replay. "There will be some more replay, but very modest," he said.
-- The commissioner said he expected baseball to add two wild-card teams to the playoffs and said he has heard more support than expected for those two teams to play a one-game round rather than a best-of-three. Weiner said players would not necessarily oppose that move, since a playoff appearance sometimes comes down to the final game of the regular season.
-- Selig indicated he did not plan any major rules changes in response to last week's tragedy in Texas, where a fan reaching for a ball tossed by a player fell out of the stands and to his death. "I think everybody is reviewing parts of their ballpark where something like that might happen," he said.
--Selig reiterated that owners will push for slotting -- predetermined bonus payments to draft picks -- and the adoption of a worldwide draft. Weiner indicated players will oppose slotting, at the least.
-- The Angels and Oakland Athletics agreed to play a doubleheader Saturday so that each team could have an extra day for its All-Star break. Selig said he did not see a return to doubleheaders, saying fans do not like them and teams depend on the revenue from individual games.
-- Selig said his committee continues to study the A's stadium problem (the A's want to move to San Jose, a move opposed by the San Francisco Giants). He acknowledged that he said the same thing this time last year.
-- Bill Shaikin in Phoenix