July 31 is a date circled on the calendars of Major League Baseball players, managers, GMs, fans, anyone and everyone involved or interested in the sport. It is an annual event, the trade deadline; however, an event that is not typically annual is the renewal of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between Club owners and the MLB Players' Association.
The 2011 season marks the conclusion of the current agreement.
This year has been a turbulent one for NFL and NBA fans concerning lockouts, stalemates and the integrity of upcoming seasons being threatened. Only in the last two weeks has the NFL CBA issue been resolved, and as of Aug. 2, there have been no promising reports concerning a CBA resolution between the owners and players' association of the NBA.
So what is to be expected concerning the renegotiation of the MLB CBA?
Luckily, the horizon is bright and perhaps considerably more hopeful than many may expect. Talks between the owners and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) have been on-going since spring training almost on a weekly basis.
Micheal Weiner, head of the MLBPA, expressed his desire to have a new CBA negotiated prior to the conclusion of the World Series this fall.
Unfortunately, the hot issue that plagued the NFL CBA, and currently hinders the NBA CBA, is expected to be the highlight of the MLB CBA: money. More specifically, how wealth is distributed among the teams.
If there is a silver lining to be found, it is that money distribution is perhaps the last, if not only point of contention that poses any threat to negotiations. Furthermore, it is expected that the negotiations concerning wealth distribution is expected to be completed without much opposition.
Issues discussed concerning the CBA renewal included division realignment, DUI penalties, expanding the draft to an international system as well as general changes to the draft system, the luxury tax and playoff expansion.
The proposed changes to the draft system included expanding it to an international level to ultimately reduce costs. Furthermore, the general changes discussed concerning the draft system applied to reducing and limiting bonuses offered to draftees in an attempt to save money and balance the power amongst all ball clubs.
Divisional realignment has been a hot topic issue for almost a full calender year. There have been recent discussions about returning to an East-West alignment similar to the NBA in order to increase the competition amongst the "Elite" and "Smaller Market" teams as well as increase the variety of teams making the postseason.
Any discussion concerning this matter would almost certainly also include a discussion about the expansion of playoffs from the current two-tier Divisional and Championship Series to a three-tier system.
While it may not be a major topic of discussion during this new CBA negotiation, playoff expansion could be discussed in some form in an attempt to make the postseason more interesting by potentially including two more teams to the fight, increasing the total number of postseason teams from eight to 10.
While it may not even be approved for the next CBA, it would be the first time the postseason would be expanded since the introduction of the Wild Card in 1994.
While many people have a problem with the lack of a salary cap in MLB, teams do not afford this luxury without paying a price, and that price is known as the luxury tax. "Large Market" teams such as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Detroit Tigers have paid into the luxury tax system in the past.
In fact, these are the only teams that have had to pay into such a system since the luxury tax was instituted in 2003. The tax collected is applied to the growth of the industry of Major League Baseball, in addition to providing player benefits and developing the game of baseball in countries lacking high school baseball programs.
Perhaps the most pivotal points of discussion next to the wealth distribution concern DUI infractions and changes of the "Super 2" policy and designation.
Let's start with the "Super 2" issue.
The "Super 2" policy is applied to MLB players with more than two years of MLB experience but less than three years of such experience, making them eligible for a negotiation process known as arbitration in which a third party is brought in as a moderator when a club and "Super 2" player cannot agree on a player's value.
This process usually favors the player and more often than not costs the club a considerable amount. It is expected that the owners will want to amend, if not do away with the "Super 2" policy, although it is not expected to be a make-or-break issue.
Last but certainly not least in anyone's mind is a change in MLB's DUI and off-field infractions policy. Notable cases include, but are not limited to a 2009 case involving Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, in which he tested to have a blood alcohol content of .26 one October night, which cost him an appearance in the one-game playoff with the Minnesota Twins, a match the Tigers ultimately lost in extra innings.
A more recent incident included Francisco Rodriguez in 2010 when he was with the New York Mets, involving him and his then-girlfriends' father getting into a physical confrontation.
Perhaps the cornerstone of this potential policy change rests with the tragedy of early 2009. Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart was the unfortunate victim of a drunk driver that struck the car he and two friends were occupying, ultimately killing Adenhart hours following the signature outing of his Major League pitching career.
It is almost certain that stricter policies will be introduced to avert the chance of off-field infractions.
For those interested in the instant replay argument, there is a possibility it may be discussed to some degree, however, it is unlikely it will appear in the finalized agreement. If it does, I would imagine the only mention it would receive would involves the ability for the issue to be addressed and possibly instituted at the discretion of MLB at some later date.
While it may seem there are many issues to be discussed and resolved concerning the MLB CBA negotiation, it is critical to remember that both parties, the owners and MLBPA, are reportedly relatively content with the current deal in place, meaning there is little standing in the way of a new deal getting finalized and more importantly, there is little reason to worry about an MLB lockout or a shortened 2012 MLB season in any fashion.
It appears that the MLB CBA negotiation may yield a satisfactory outcome for all parties involved. The owners, the players and, most importantly, the fans.