There hasn’t been a work stoppage in Major League Baseball since 1995, and based god willing, there won’t be one when the current collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2016 and they (hopefully) ratify a new one to keep the game going. The owners fought for so long to get certain concessions from the players that it is unlikely the current CBA will change, but there is always room for improvement and I addressed this somewhat ambiguously in the last blog. The main issue that I believed that players would fight for is their opportunities on the open market, which currently may be restricted if they are not the elite of the elite in the free agent crop.
MLB and the players’ union have been cognizant of this since at least spring training, with some of the issues stemming from the “tanking” mentality of some of the worst clubs in the majors (the Chicago Cubs included, but I think they’re mostly referring to the Houston Astros here) as well as the whole Brady Aiken fiasco from this past summer that the union is still looking into. Recently, MLB started working on pace-of-play issues which the players aren’t exactly super-excited about. And there are of course the replay review rules, which are contributing to some awkward moonwalks out of the dugout by managers and really long delays as the replay officials in New York do their JFK routine…
Back…and to the left…
The main factor that may prevent too much of a tweak in the CBA is the election of Rob Manfred as the new commissioner to succeed Bud Selig. Manfred is the man most associated with helping maintain labor peace in MLB. He apparently also is not well-liked by Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, which is interesting given that friend and former writer Mauricio Rubio, among others, has said that Reinsdorf is most responsible for enacting the drastic changes to the draft slotting system and acquisition of amateur talent.
It is still too early to make much of this, but along with what I outlined in the previous blog, here are things that I think may be addressed in the next CBA negotations:
- Instant replay review – perhaps restrict manager movements out of the dugout unless he is absolutely serious about challenging the call and not just working a delay for the review. One suggestion I had is to set up a time frame during which managers must either make the challenge or forever hold their peace. Another is to put the review squarely in the hands of one of the 15 or so guys watching in New York who is hopefully paying attention to the game, and have them buzz the umpiring crew immediately to reverse the call. This will obviously take a lot of tweaking, but certain fans are not too happy with the delays in a portion of the reviews and how it may detract from the excitement on the field.
- Pace of play implementation – despite player complaints, it is an issue and needs to be addressed. If your cup isn’t feeling quite right every time you take a swing, you probably need to get a better cup.
- Free agent compensation rules – the issues that delayed the signings of certain players like Kyle Lohse, Ervin Santana, Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew, among others, will likely be addressed somehow. I am not wise enough to speculate on how they intend to change it without pissing off the owners and/or players though. And Tony Clark has said that the union is unlikely to ask for a drastic change (or any change) anyway, though that may change with this coming offseason.
- Draft rules – prevent a situation where a team can manipulate and potentially derail the careers of young men like Brady Aiken, although the medical concern with Aiken may be legitimate and teams should be protected against “faulty merchandise,” so to speak.
The relationship between the players’ union, which seems to have strong trust in Tony Clark, and incoming commissioner Rob Manfred suggests that the negotiations will be amicable and smooth. And once they hammer out the new deal, sometime around when the Cubs’ window of opportunity is about to jar wide open, the front office should be able to exploit it to their benefit once again. For now, we wait.