ESPN’s Jayson Stark posted some of what he’s hearing in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), struck late on 11/30/16 so as to beat the 12/1 deadline. And so far, I like what the two sides have agreed upon. Post-publishing update: Craig Calcaterra also posted a reaction and listed other new items in the CBA that Stark didn’t have; i’ll tack them on as we find them out to this post.
Going over the main issues and changes that we’ll see, here’s some thoughts issue-by-issue:
- Luxury Tax increases: this is as close as the league has to a “salary cap” and it has served more or less as one, as we’ve seen the historically profligate Yankees curb their spending recently so as to get under the tax. That hasn’t stopped the Dodgers from spending $250M-$300M, but even that will come under fire due to a newly discovered “debt ratio” issue. Nonetheless, an increase of the tax is favorable to the players.
EliminationModificatino of the Qualifying Offer: thank goodness! Finally no more ridiculous QO system, which has done nothing to help small market teams and had the effect basically of destroying the markets of a few key players over the years (Ian Desmond, Kendrys Morales, etc). Instead, only teams above the luxury tax will lose picks (good) and teams losing players will still get draft pick compensation (good). Details still coming out but the picks that are in jeopardy seem to be non 1st round picks, which means teams won’t be as beholden to them, helping out the players and preventing some of the QO-attached nightmare situations we’ve seen.
- No more Home field advantage determined by the All Star Game: finally. The elimination of perhaps the dumbest thing Baseball has done in the last 30 years.
- Banning of Smokeless tobacco: Really, why is this an issue? I don’t get it; are they banning cigarettes too? This seems like a petty restriction on what adults do to their bodies that has no bearing on the game. I guess its all about optics.
- Slight lengthening of the regular season: gives a few extra days off here and there. We’re already playing the world Series into November, what’s a few more days?
- More day games on getaway days: Like this; I wish there were more day games. Why are nearly all of Washington’s Saturday games night games? Families with small children are basically shut out of 6/7ths of the team’s games because of this.
- Minimum Salary Increases: probably only fair, as we learn more and more about how little some guys get paid versus what they accomplish on the field in the modern day economics.
- Revenue Sharing issues: details yet to emerge, but we do know that Oakland was specifically mentioned as losing their revenue sharing. This seems odd to me; why single out Oakland and not other teams that seem to be abusing the system as well (ahem, Miami)? I wonder if this leads to a change of ownership in Oakland, a change of direction, a more forceful attempt to relocate, etc.
- Increased Drug Testing to include HGH; this was probably inevitable, as both sides support cleaning up the game for separate reasons. Who is against drug testing?
- Domestic Violence Policy: this was bound to be included too, given the spate of DV issues we’ve seen in the last year among prominent athletes. Only comment here is … why just DV? Why not have a blanket policy for all sorts of infractions? DUIs, assults, etc?
- Minimum Disabled List Stay Reduced From 15 to 10 Days: I like this rule in that it seems that many injuries are either hidden or just buried thanks to the 15-day limit. A shorter limit should help get players back faster.
There’s apparently significant changes that have not been disclosed yet that may be of real interest, especially to this writer and the readers here:
- Changes to the Rule 4 Draft: changes coming, maybe more slotting dollars, perhaps even trading of draft picks. This would be great.
- Regular Season Games outside US: like in London. Why not?
- Service-time rules: Probably in response to the Kris Bryant-like burying of players for 2 weeks in April, or related to the Super-2. But the problem with any hard deadline is this: no matter when you put the deadline, there’s always a way to delay to get around it. I like Keith Law‘s proposals that basically give teams an extra year of “restricted free agency” instead of dealing with service time manipulations.
- MLB expansion: we havn’t talked about expansion here in a while. I posted in July 2015 asking why people thought Montreal was still a viable expansion market, but the last time I really analyzed expansion was in July of 2011, when I postulated that it may be easier logistically to expand from 30->32 instead of realigning the leagues to have 15 & 15 and have interleague every day. At the time I postulated that Portland and San Antonio would make sense as expansion markets, and it was super-fun doing realignment scenarios with 8 divisions and 2 new teams, but the issues facing expansion detailed in that July 2011 post are significant and remain (basically TV contracts and market viability). I remain pessimistic that there’s any shot of expanding baseball unless you eliminate anti-trust exemption and get rid of the RSN TV market lockdowns that exist currently.
- Replay: hopefully they can make it faster, smarter. The current system is just dumb; close play on the field, manager sends someone to the clubhouse to decide if they’re challenging … it all takes too much time.
- Pace of game: hopefully this includes a two-batter minimum for relievers. We’ll see.
- Ways to discourage tanking: not sure how you fix this. The discrepancy between free agent salaries and pre-arb prices is so amazingly large that it makes more sense to just bottom out and start over rather than attempt to re-tool.
Major things that were NOT apparently addressed in the CBA but which would be nice to see (this is also from my personal “Commissioner for a day” type post)
- No International Draft: I think this is a win for the game, but the fact that the owners pushed for it is a concern for the next CBA. I still don’t understand why owners can’t see the forest for the trees; if they implement an international draft so as to save a few million dollars of bonus money, they risk losing entire countries of development for players. Its so shortsighted. I hope the players continue to fight against it.
- Roster Expansion: lots of talk of a 26th player, but that would have flied in the face of the Pace of Game changes that we hope to see; we want to see fewer relievers, not more.
- Limitations on 9/1 Roster Expansion: I’d like to see some sort of game-day limit of active players instead of having unbalanced rosters; why would the Nats on Sept 15th have 5 more players at their disposal than their opponent who chose not to call up extra guys? Makes no sense.
- Elimination of the DH and/or Universal DH: i’m on record being pro Universal DH despite being in an NL town. But its a religious argument at this point so i’m more just for standardizing rules.
- Revamp All-Star Game to be full of actual Stars: as in, eliminate the “one player per team” requirement and just put the best players on the team for this exhibition.
- Forcibly fix the MASN issue: The current situation is ridiculous, with a team that already got a sweetheart deal reneging on the terms of an agreement and fighting rulings more on technicality grounds and less on their merits. Enough is enough. I read somewhere a very interesting opinion that stated that MLB is just waiting out Peter Angelos, that when he dies they’ll make it a part of the transfer of the ball club to give up their MASN share. Makes sense and is the kind of dirty long-play thing that Bud Selig would have been in favor of.
- Eliminate TV markets/Anti Trust exemption: I think the time has come for teams to have the flexibility to move where they can be financially viable. This goes for Tampa and Oakland immediately, but possibly to other teams down the road.
I may updated this post as more official details come out to offer more opinions, but so far I like all the changes that i’ve heard. What do you guys think?