MLB, union continue CBA talks
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- With ongoing talks already underway for collectively bargaining a new Basic Agreement with the players association, Commissioner Bud Selig has canceled the summer owners' meetings originally scheduled to be held in Toronto from Aug. 8-10.
"We felt that the details of the new television agreements reached with Fox and TNT earlier this month could be handled on the telephone," said Bob DuPuy, Major League Baseball's president and chief operating officer, here this weekend for Sunday's induction of Bruce Sutter and 17 former Negro Leaguers into the Hall of Fame. "We're deep in collective bargaining at this point and that's going well. So the Commissioner thought there was no reason to pull the owners away for two days from some tight pennant races."
Collectively bargaining with representatives of the players association has been ongoing every day for the past two weeks. The current agreement expires on Dec. 19, but DuPuy said that he still believes there's plenty of time to get a deal done before that deadline.
"I still think we may be able to get this done by the end of the season," DuPuy said.
He added that there will be the usual ownership committee meetings around the country during the course of the summer, but the group won't get together as a whole again until November.
The 2002 talks in New York went right to the edge of a Aug. 31 deadline. The contract included a competitive balance tax, increased revenue sharing and MLB's first random testing for performance-enhancing drugs.
That agreement was groundbreaking, DuPuy said, and enhanced the chance of more amicable talks this time around. Since then MLB's annual revenue has risen to $4.7 billion while the average player salary reached a record $2.8 million in 2006. Cumulative attendance records continue to be broken, and with more than 45 million having passed through the gates of Major Leagues ballparks a new mark this season is again possible.
"The negotiations in 2002 broke ground in a number of key areas," DuPuy said. "We really believe that that signifies there are no issues this time that would appear to be deal breakers."
Since then, the owners and the union renegotiated the Major League's drug policy twice and in the process lowered the incidence of positive tests among big-league players from 5-to-7 percent in 2003 to below one percent in 2005. This past winter's new policy, which extends to 2008 and was separated from the Basic Agreement, includes the harshest penalties ever for the use of performance-enhancing drugs and amphetamines. Thus far this season, no player on the 25-man roster of any big league club has tested positive.
Both sides would like to bring the expiration of the drug policy and a Basic Agreement back into line. And there are also some technical concerns regarding revenue sharing and how the money is spent, debt service and the renewal of the competitive balance tax.
Major League clubs now share 34 percent of local revenue, a figure that will top off at over $300 million distributed this season. Two teams over the course of the current agreement have consistently exceeded the competitive balance tax threshold: the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, who are annually involved in a struggle to win the American League East.
For his part, DuPuy sounded more optimistic about the process than at any time in the past this late into negotiations.
"While there are some areas of the CBA that are matters for concern, there's no single issue that will mean taking the game off the field," he said.