By Danny Knobler
Baseball’s current collective bargaining agreement, which runs through the end of this season, is in the second year of an eight-year deal. Because the union is set to bring negotiations forward before the winter meetings in late November, MLB could be facing a lockout for next season.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig told the Associated Press last month that the union has asked that the players’ current contract be extended out for eight years or three years for the current team owners, for example. Unlike previous deals that were set to expire at the end of this season, the most current deal would be a last contract. That means there wouldn’t be any more extensions like the ones implemented during the 2004 World Series.
Selig is right to be concerned. The players’ association believes that baseball’s players are grossly underpaid, while the owners feel that the system is broken and needs major reforms. And either side could have an issue if the agreement runs out. What’s more, Selig said this week that the deadline “could be right around the corner.”
Negotiations between the two sides are scheduled to take place before the Nov. 6 meetings. But with the threat of a lockout looming, it’s hard to predict what would happen if and when the sides are unable to settle on an extension. Players’ first loyalty would surely be to their workplace, the MLBPA doesn’t have the means to conduct its business much differently than the league and players need to be completely fed up with playing under the current conditions if they were to continue playing.
The non-binding end of the current agreement will likely serve as the start of a new negotiation period, where each side makes the argument it thinks is best for the game. The owners’ argument would be that baseball’s current system isn’t broken, that players are getting rich but aren’t happy, that current CBA conditions have improved both on and off the field. The players’ argument would be that baseball’s owners are working on behalf of larger financial interests instead of those of players. In other words, even though baseball is making money, the owners need to consider the business side of the game to avoid a downward spiral of declining fanship, ticket sales and revenue.
Negotiations would most likely begin in the next six weeks, so owners and players won’t know for certain if they will be going into a work stoppage until about mid-October. Hopefully a deal is struck, but the possibility of a lockout shouldn’t be ignored. MLB will be in constant negotiations for the next few years. Will there be another large collective bargaining agreement? Will players feel emboldened to at least attempt their own work stoppage (and carry their strike into free agency)?