PHOENIX — It’s no secret that the NBA and the NFL are in lockouts. With baseball’s collective bargaining agreement set to expire this offseason, they’re already in negotiations to avoid a similar fate. In their annual meetings with the Baseball Writers Association, commissioner Bud Selig and Players Union executive director Michael Wiener addressed that, and some of the other issues facing baseball.
Here’s a brief recap of what was discussed:
On realignment: Both Wiener and Selig agreed that “significant” realignment isn’t on the immediate horizon. Weiner said that a 15-15 format, within the traditional league format, is something the players have been in favor of for “a decade.” While Selig maintained that he loves Interleague play — and the attendance records this year continue to prove that the fans do as well — any schedule changes will not be major.
“Players they take the competition very, very seriously,” Weiner said. “They want the competition to be fair. (With 16 in one league and 14 in another) In a sense it would be akin to having the US Open with more players on one side than the other. The best reason is everyone would have more competitors in their division and everyone would have the same number of competitors to qualify for the Wild Card.”
As far as the Wild Card is concerned, Selig said that there will most likely be an expanded postseason format in 2012. When asked about the addition of a second Wild Card in each league, Selig said “I like its chances.”
Postseason schedule changes, Weiner said, could be implemented quicker than any drastic changes to the regular-season schedule, though 2013 is a more likely target for changes to the main schedule.
“I wouldn’t say it’s impossible to have a realigned schedule for 2012,” Weiner said. “We have, at various times changed our schedule, but it’s unlikely we’ll have major changes for 2012, not impossible though. If we were to make a postseason play only deal that could be made much later than a deal that affect the regular-season schedule as well.”
On the All-Star Game: Chances are it will remain as the deciding factor for home field advantage in the World Series. Selig was on board with the idea, saying “I like it, you bet,” when asked about the current set up. Wiener was a little less enthusiastic about it, but noted that the Players Association has several other larger issues to negotiate with MLB and the use of the All-Star Game to decide home field advantage may be one they simply concede.
“I like the way the games have been played since 2003,” Selig said. “Our television partners certainly like it. Ratings do mean mean something to every club. Until somebody comes up with something better that really excites people, yeah, I do like it.”
As far as simply awarding home field advantage to the team with the best record, Selig said it’s something of an impossibility and a logistical nightmare — plus the added prep time helps FOX, a fact Selig did not shy away from.
“You can’t wait until the end of the year,” he said. “At least once one league wins, now you start making hotel reservations… Doing things that help your television partners is not an unconstitutional act.”
Selig added that he fully supports Derek Jeter’s decision not to attend the All-Star Game and noted that, quite frankly, if he was in Jeter’s position he may have done the same. He also noted that the new rule that pitchers who throw on the Sunday before the All-Star break are ineligible to participate is one that they will review this offseason after several pitchers have made it clear they’re not in favor of it.
On the decision to return baseball to Washington, which is now in its seventh year: “That took a long time, and I think the Washington situation is working out well, I really do,” Selig said. “I’m glad that all happened. It took a long time. We went through a lot. It seems like every year or two you have some thing that you wished for, but it worked out well. It’s working out well.
“There were a lot of lessons to be learned there,” Selig said. “That was a difficult one, leaving Montreal and going through all the heartache we did. But in the end, one of the things I’ve learned as commissioner: Circumstances finally force the right decision to be made. Sometimes you sort of debate it, there’s a gray area that you’re concerned about. It did teach me a lot. Now, we had to work things out with Baltimore. That was painful. But it all worked. It all worked out well. And we’re better off as a result for it.”
On the negotiations for the next CBA: Wiener reiterated that both sides want to avoid a shutdown. They’ve been in regular discussions since the beginning of spring training, amounting to a meeting just about every week. The main sticking points for the union involve the reserve system, salary arbitration, free agency, the benefits plan, schedule concerns and, of course, the draft — both domestic and international.
“Nobody wants a shutdown,” Wiener said. “But nobody should take for granted until we have an agreement that everyone will be working hard to get one.”
As for avoiding the situations that are going on in the NBA and NFL?
“I don’t think there’s a direct impact on the player’s side to what’s happening in the other sports,” Wiener said. “We monitor what’s happening in the other unions and we support the other unions.
“I can’t say that a lot of our opinions have been informed by what’s happening there. The context, though, is undeniable. The opportunity that our bargaining presents in contrast to what’s happening in the other sports is one that both sides benefit from it. It’s an opportunity to keep the game going, improve the game, improve the institution of collective bargaining. Sometimes in a bargaining relationship that’s not what you can do in negotiation. Sometimes negotiations are so far apart that it’s going to be a nasty protracted struggle and in those other sports, management’s position leads to a very difficult, public, protracted negotiations. It’s not directly affecting what our bargaining positions are but we’re aware of them.”
– On one other note, Selig said that expansion of replay is definitely going to happen but not an extensive amount. Most likely it will be expanded to review balls hit hard down the left and right field lines as to whether they are fair or foul.