|Issues abound for MLB CBA||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on July 15, 2011
Compared to the NFL, currently in lockout, and the NBA, which appears to be a seeming morass of labor/management strife, baseball's owners and the MLBPA (the players union) almost seem to have an outright friendly relationship.
Maybe that's because of the overall health of the game, and the fact they've figured out that everyone is benefiting by being more or less on the same page. With the current CBA set to expire in December, both sides know that some change is coming, and while there will be some contentious issues, nothing potentially earth shattering is likely to impact play going into next season.
*Penalties for DUI and off the field infractions which violate local laws -- teams want to have the right, or have a mandatory league--wide penalty which can be assessed to players who hurt the community, or the community feelings regarding the team and players when a ballplayer gets involved. The death of pitcher Nick Adenhart in 2009 and a recent rise in high profile players getting arrested for DUI has brought this to a head. It's likely the players union will agree to this, but may ask for a concession in return.
*Changes in current free agent and Super 2 designation. Owners are upset about the Super 2 designation which makes the top 17% of players with more than two years, but less than three years of Major League experience eligible for arbitration, essentially a season before they'd ordinarily be eligible. The owners will ask for this to be eliminated.
The players on the other hand may not only push to keep Super 2, but even expand it, especially since many teams are manipulating the system in order to get an extra half season or more out of a player before he become eligible for arbitration.
Additionally they are likely, after the free agency issues of the last few seasons to want changes to either the way that players are rated, or the compensation system in place now as type A free agents are attracting fewer suitors (and fewer dollars) since the signing teams need to give up a top draft pick in compensation -- something that fewer and fewer teams outside the big markets seem willing to do.
*Push for an international draft -- A majority of owners would like to institute an international draft. This would save money, and lower the costs of bonuses and change the system from a wild west type shootout where the teams with the most money to scout and who finance overseas player development end up with a bigger talent pipeline.
The union would likely oppose this because of the decrease in money going into the pockets of players coming from those countries, but also because it could disrupt those same player pipelines that bring in a lot of the games best talent.
*Changes to the luxury tax system -- Last year's exposure of teams like Pittsburgh and Florida which showed that the teams were making, and banking, money, despite crying wolf and carrying on about how they were losing money is going to be an issue both for the majority of owners who pay into the luxury tax system and to the players union.
Big market teams are likely to push for reductions in the luxury tax rates/system, while the players will push for a system that forces the team to use each and every luxury tax dollar on player and player development.
*Changes to the current drafting system -- Owners will once again propose that a system which limits bonuses relative to what round an amateur player is drafted in. They'd like this both to save money, and also to help address competitive balance issues where top players either refuse to sign, or don't get picked by the teams with the highest draft priority because that team knows it can't afford to sign them.
The union will see no reason to change the current system which puts millions of dollars into the pockets of its membership.
*Changes to MLBs current drug policy -- No doubt some minor tweaking of this will come about, but don't expect blood tests, HGH tests or recreational drug testing to become part of the policy.
*Expanding the playoffs -- Commissioner Selig has shown interest in beefing up the playoff system and introducing more teams. Provided the players get more money from it, the union probably won't fight the concept too hard, still this is something that may not come about in the next CBA.
*Tobacco use -- several off the field groups including several politicians have been pressuring MLB to ban the use of tobacco outright. Currently players don't light up (at least on the field) but can use chewing tobacco and the like. The owners won't press the issue too hard since they have little to gain by it, nor is the union likely to make a big fight against it.
*Ownership issues -- The recent financial turmoil in the game with several organizations in dire straits, including the fiasco with Frank McCourt and the Dodgers, and leading large market teams to drastically cut payroll, will be an issue for the union. It's likely they will push for higher financial standards for future owners coming into the game, and possibly the creation of a guarantee fund to make sure that owners can meet financial obligations to players and that the amount of dollars spent in salaries is not allowed to take a nosedive when a handful of owners enact austerity plans due to their personal financial plight.
Of all these issues, the most likely ones to cause problems would be the first one and the last one. The union has always claimed to be standing up for privacy and personal rights when it came to drug testing and as well as off field issues. They could take a stance, unpopular though it might be, that whatever happens off the field should stay off the field and that if an organization wants to suspend a player it can -- so long as it is on their own dime rather than on the player's dime.
That's not to say that they don't feel players shouldn't be penalized for DUI offenses, but they represent the players for financial, not moral, reasons and enacting rules which cost the players money simply isn't what the Union does.
But it's the last issue, the insolvency and financial woes at least three baseball teams in the last three years which should concern the union more than anything -- especially with two big market teams, the Mets and the Dodgers, essentially dropping out of the free agent market. That is a concern, especially if other owners are feeling financially strapped too.
That directly affects the union as decreasing free agent dollars and decreasing payroll costs the membership money. Coupling that with the growing number of teams who are unwilling to give up draft picks as compensation for signing type A free agents, means that many top level, but non elite, players are going as free agents at what the union believes is below true market rate.
Thus they have a vested interest in the financial health of ownership across the board as it relates to the union members and salaries. Thus the union may push for certain concessions including possibly an assurance that revenue sharing dollars are invested in free agents, elimination of type A free agent or even a ceiling floor for all teams.Either way, the debate about the CBA should make the next few weeks interesting.