On rumors of a new labor agreement
Rumors are a-floating that a new collective bargaining agreement is all but signed. I’m going to save a longer discussion of what’s in it for later, when it’s been inked, but a couple things are interesting right now.
First, I’ll believe it when I see it. In complicated negotiations like this, the chance it could all unravel over the flavor of mustard on the roast beef sandwiches is there until there are signatures on paper. Someone’s pretty confident that it’ll get done, obviously, but as a Mariner example, take Corey Koskie – depending on who you listened to, that contract was either agreed to and signed or just agreed on, while we were saying that Koskie isn’t signed until he’s signed*. Sometimes this stuff comes out because one side wants the other to give up on the niggling details they’re still working out, and it makes things worse. Let’s assume that’s not the case.
It appears that both labor and ownership hawks have been disarmed and muzzled. This is a startling achievement, and may be the greatest thing Selig’s managed in his long reign. The players caved in the last CBA, giving up a ton, and it seemed that the next CBA negotiation would be brutal. Owners who’d been behind previous confrontations (Reisdorf in particular) saw weakness and wanted to break the union, while elements in the players’ union wanted to take back some of the ceded territory. If you were willing to stare at the tea leaves for a long time, Peter Angelos’ seeming drift from union sympathizer (within the spectrum of team owners) to Reisdorf crony made it look like even the moderates were ready to pounce. It hasn’t happened.
We can’t know the whole of how Selig did it, but we know there were massive fines threatened against teams discussing the negotiations. It certainly also appears that Selig’s used his fairly massive behind-the-scenes influence to get the ownership groups behind what must have been a reasonable stance to the point where none of them called their favorite pet reporters and leaked anything about how dangerous these new concessions were, how awful the players are, and so on. That’s impressive.
Since the last CBA, I’ve thought there was about 10-25% chance, depending on what was happening, that 2006 would see a serious work stoppage, with the playoffs lost and/or a lockout for 2007. As a baseball fan, even a Mariners fan headed into 2007 with Mike Hargrove still inexplicably managing my team, the possibility that we might see a new collective bargaining agreement reached amicably with no loss of games makes me happy.
And from a strictly personal perspective, I have a book coming out this spring (The Cheater’s Guide to Baseball, pre-order now for only $11). Books don’t sell if that sport’s fighting out a labor action, which would have meant my first book would have sold two, maybe three copies, and now at least it’ll rise on its own merits.
In any event, the two rumored changes of any impact are
– no/differently structured draft pick compensation for free agent departures
– draft picks get slotted bonuses
If or when the details of the collective bargaining agreement are announced, we’ll discuss the impacts, good and bad, of those changes at length here. These are not clearly good for the sport, despite what euphoria might spill over into coverage, but I’m not willing to do analysis without knowing more. For now, though, news that the agreement’s done – even that they’ve reached this point amicably – is good news for the sport, and for us as fans.
* oddly, despite us waving our hands and shouting about it, there are people out there who believe we were spreading the Koskie-is-signed story, which means, at least, that there are people who can’t or aren’t willing to use search