Labor deal completed by MLB, union

Sport's growth can continue with new five-year agreement

World Series

Notebook

October 25, 2006|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,SUN REPORTER

ST. LOUIS -- Riding the tide of baseball's recent economic success, the sport's management and union announced jointly at a news conference hours before yesterday's Game 3 of the World Series that a new five-year labor agreement had been reached.

It guarantees there will be no work stoppage through Dec. 11, 2011, five years after the current contract was set to expire.

"This is historic for a number of reasons," commissioner Bud Selig said. "First, it is the longest labor contract in baseball history. Second, we reached the agreement nearly two months before the deadline. And third, by the end of this contract, baseball will have gone 16 years without a strike or lockout, which is the longest period of labor peace since the inception of [the players union]."

Compared with the past two contract disputes -- one that was settled at the 11th hour in 2002 and the other that led to the cancellation of the 1994 World Series -- this one was downright harmonious. Much of that has to do with Major League Baseball experiencing the highest revenue and highest attendance in its history.

"This new agreement will permit that growth to continue uninterrupted," union chief Donald Fehr said.

The 2006-to-2011 deal includes more tweaking than changing. Revenue sharing will continue at the same net transfer rate ($326 million in 2006), with allowances for revenue growth and disparity. Tax margin rates will be reduced for the high-level and low-level teams, which should provide further incentive for teams to spend their revenue-sharing receipts on their baseball organizations, Fehr said.

The competitive balance tax -- which Selig believes is predominantly responsible for the sport's recent parity -- will incrementally increase each year before reaching $178 million in 2011. That means teams whose payrolls exceed those totals must pay a luxury tax, which differs depending on how many years a specific team exceeds the limit.

Two slight sticking points -- free-agency signing periods and compensation for clubs that have lost free agents -- have been altered, as have some amateur draft provisions.

Under the new agreement, if a club fails to sign its first- or second-rounder, it would receive a similarly slotted pick the next year. For instance, when the Orioles failed to sign first-rounder Wade Townsend (eighth overall) in 2004, they received a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds (48th overall) in 2005. If the new agreement were in effect then, they would have received the 8A pick -- the selection right after the eighth spot in the first round -- in 2005. In addition, the signing deadline for draft picks other than college seniors is now Aug. 15 instead of attendance at the first day of college classes.

Also, teams will get less compensation when they lose a free agent. Draft compensation for Class C -- or lower-level free agents -- has been eliminated. Compensation for Class B or mid-level free agents is now a sandwich pick between rounds and does not come directly from the team that signed the player.

Certain filing dates for free agents have been eliminated and arbitration offer and acceptance dates have been changed. Furthermore, players will no longer be able to demand a trade if dealt during a multi-year contract. Players currently in those situations -- such as the Orioles' Kris Benson or Miguel Tejada, if he were traded within the next two seasons -- would retain that option due to a grandfathered provision.

The sides also considered capping draft bonuses and trading draft picks, but those concepts were not included in the final deal.

More Smudgegate?

Another interesting wrinkle in the saga of Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers and his smudged left hand. Cardinals hitting coach Hal McRae declined to comment yesterday after telling a USA Today reporter Monday that his club confiscated five to six balls it thought had been scuffed by Rogers during Game 2.

When asked about McRae's comments, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said: "Enough conversation about that. ... I'm not involved with it anymore and I don't want our club to be."

Delgado wins award

New York Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado was awarded the 2006 Roberto Clemente Award for on-field excellence and outstanding community service. Also a native Puerto Rican, Delgado wears uniform No. 21 in tribute to Clemente.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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