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Those That Matter Win in New CBA



By Mike Silva ~ November 23rd, 2011. Filed under: Business of Sports.

I am a big proponent of the new MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement. There are goodies for the average player, expanded playoffs, and even roster flexibility for doubleheaders. Like with any deal there were tradeoffs, as teams are now going to have to draft and spend wiser on amateur talent.

Just a day before the rumored deal was announced I wrote the real win is “for the average players, who will have more opportunities to earn during their careers.” Yes, an increase in minimum salary, arbitration eligibility, HGH testing, and earlier contract tender date came with a price in the form of decreased earning potential of amateur players. But it’s the agents, not the teams that win in an arena where signing bonuses continue to escalate.

Agents like Scott Boras are trying to move MLB amateurs towards what we see in the NBA and NFL. The difference is those leagues draft players that are a more finished product. Even the best MLB draftees need a year or two of minor league seasoning. Most may never see the big leagues. You can’t justify the expense. The recent scandals coming out of the Dominican Republic make an International Draft essential. You can’t have scouts rigging the system and skimming bonuses, especially as the cost of signing top talent that now escalates to over $5 million dollars. Both of these amateur groups need to earn their way into the union to receive the goodies and perks.

Some argue this will push kids away from playing baseball. The fact remains that careers in basketball and football yield more lucrative careers in a shorter span of time. Regardless of the system, a kid at 20 years old can be awarded a multi-million dollar contract in the NBA. A 22 year old can become wealthy on draft day in the NFL. Except for rare exceptions, this doesn’t happen in MLB. The kids know that and if they are good enough for either sport they will always pick it over baseball. This won’t change because of a newly imposed tax.

Personally, I never felt comfortable giving high school aged American and Dominican kids millions of dollars before their first professional inning. There shouldn’t be a bidding war on “potential.” They also shouldn’t be taking a 40-man roster spot (see Andrew Brackman), over someone that has put their time into the system. Thankfully, this is no longer an option.

Despite the complaints from anonymous general managers and execs the smart teams will adjust to the restraints with the draft and succeed. Change is always met with skepticism, in any industry, and baseball more so than others. The fact that both sides negotiated this without rancor should tell you how unified the players are in moving the game forward under these rules. Player Union Chief, Michael Weiner, needed to worry about his current members paying $1,800 dollars a month in dues; not some “maybes” that may never make it above Low-A.  If it means pissing off a few super agents (see Scott Boras), then its collateral damage worth the price. The talented kids will continue to play baseball if they have legitimate shot to make it to the big leagues.

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I was also pleased with some secondary changes that were not previously mentioned in my Monday article.

Of course, the second Wild Card has been talked about, but active roster limits will also be expanded to 26 for certain regular or split doubleheaders. I think this is huge as it will prevent a team’s rotations from being skewed due to weather. You also won’t have to demote a player just because you need an extra pitcher for one day. Overall this is a very common sense rule.

Instant Replay will be expanded to include fair/foul and “trapped” ball plays. The first thing that comes to my mind is the infamous (if you are a Twins fan) Phil Cuzzi blunder on Joe Mauer‘s fair ball/foul ball double during the 2009 ALDS. If instant replay were available perhaps the Twins win Game 2 of that series and change the course of history.

There have been too many umpiring mistakes over the past few years. I am not sure why, perhaps the game is moving too fast for them. Whatever the reason, it appears they need technology to help them officiate a game properly. I think the nuances of new stadiums and new equipment makes it essential to use replay for fair, foul, and trapped balls in play. The human element is still intact with the balls, strikes, safe, and out.

Finally, the mandatory All Star appearance rule at least gives credence to a game that shouldn’t count. Of course, there appears to be an “out” for players with the “excused by the Office of the Commissioner” language.

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The only two parts of the agreement that stand out as ominous are the social media policy and the daily interleague play.

Personally, I would like to see Interleague Play eliminated, but I am not foolish enough to believe MLB will give up the gate receipts. Daily Interleague Play will be very odd early on, but I guess it’s a sign that its no longer “National League” and “American League,” but Major League Baseball.

This is one of the few times that I go “traditional” on my readers. I was a big proponent of Interleague Play when it started, but over the years I have come to appreciate the differences between the two styles of play. I think the Subway Series in 2000 might have been more special if the Mets and Yankees didn’t play six times prior. Perhaps this is a provincial New York issue, but I wish they scaled back Interleague in this agreement. I believe the leagues should go back to being two separate but equal entities.

As for the social media policy, I hope it doesn’t prevent some individuals, like R.A. Dickey, who use tools, like Twitter, to effectively connect with fans. The last thing you want to see is generic accounts run by the MLB PR gulag that connect with fans in a phony salesman type of way. There are already accounts like that (CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira come to mind, Nick Swisher is heading that way too).

I understand there needs to be common sense and guidelines with this, but it shouldn’t be too intrusive or generic. Allow the players to be themselves. I think most can do that without losing their professionalism or hurting the MLB brand. I would hate to see the accounts of Logan Morrison, Justin Turner, and R.A. Dickey destroyed over this – that’s the kind of interaction the fans want.

None of this is enough for me not to like the deal. As a matter of fact, this is probably the first time I can’t really complain about how the league conducted its business.

This agreement is a win for the fans and players. We get to see more playoff teams and better officiating, and the players get an opportunity to earn more on a level playing field. Those that matter were the winners in this CBA.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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6 Responses to Those That Matter Win in New CBA

  1. Chuck

    I completely agree, Mike.

    As with every deal, there are concessions, and some “bones” thrown across the table to keep people busy, like the extra roster spot (really?) and the unenforceable rule about All Star participation.

    The draft and the handling of International players has long been on top of MLB’s list, and I’m pretty happy they’ve taken such drastic steps to get them both fixed.

    ’bout time.

  2. Stu B

    They should have just expanded the active roster to 26 for the entire season until Sept. 1.

  3. Chuck Johnson

    Rosters are too big as it is.

    Get rid of the DH and go back to 24 man rosters.

    If you want to add an extra option or something fine, but if you can’t make it through a doubleheader with 25 guys, there’s something wrong.

  4. Stu B

    What’s the big deal? If they want an extra reliever or bench guy, it doesn’t adversely affect play.

  5. Kurt Smith

    Well put, Mike. Those of us in the Philly area remember the demands of Scott Boras and J.D. Drew when the Phillies drafted him. He turned out to be a good player, not the Hall of Famer he was made out to be. And until any hitter or pitcher faces major league talent, you just don’t know how good they’re going to be.

  6. Mister D

    Replay is good. Mandatory All Stars is good. Astros moving is good. Daily interleague is “meh” – no more or less games than in the past, just changing when they are, so I don’t think it’ll matter much in the end.

    Millionaires and billionaires colluding to keep money from poor kids in Latin America just sucks.

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