On Tuesday, the details of the new collective bargaining agreement were made public. The Texas Rangers have handled their business well for the past five or six years and their results have been indicative of that work coming to fruition on the field of play.
Now the rules are changing. Baseball is making some major moves. The deal will clearly affect every team in the league but the Rangers will be affected, in some ways, more than others.
The most important news is that there is an agreement. There are some significant changes. Some benefit while others will hinder this team's efforts to remain atop the American League.
Starting no later than 2013 (most say it will happen in 2012) the playoffs are expanding to add one more wild-card team. The two wild-card teams will play each other in a one-game playoff series with the winner moving on to the division series.
Major League Baseball is trying to make more games meaningful towards the end of the year by allowing one more team from each league to get involved in October. September 28, 2011 is a night that some consider the greatest night in baseball history. It was the first time ever that the two wild-card teams were tied after 162 games. The night was set up for high drama and didn't disappoint.
A downside is that a team like the Rangers with a solid rotation (all starters with 10-plus wins) and deep team could lose to a Tampa Bay team with a single dominant pitcher.
If the Rangers' regular season slips up, the change gives them an extra chance to occupy October like they have for the past two seasons.
In 2013 the Houston Astros will move to the AL West, setting up an immediate in-state rivalry with the Rangers. The two clubs already fight for the Silver Boot but, being that the two are in different divisions, the games don't carry as much weight. Bringing them into the division will make sure that the games hold more weight.
Since the series began in 2001, the Rangers hold a 37-29 lead on the Astros. The rivalry has always been more of a fan experience. Now that the two play each other more than six times a season the rivalry should get more intense.
The Astros were the worst team in baseball last year but were recently purchased by Jim Crane. Crane pushed for the move to the American League so much that it was apparently an explicit condition that he asked for before he purchased the team. Change is on the horizon in Houston and the Astros will be getting back on track.
The owners and Bud Selig are putting a cap on how much you can spend on players in the draft.
Each team will receive an aggregate signing bonus pool that will tell them how much they can offer players for a signing bonus. Any time a team goes over that bonus limit they'll have to pay a penalty that includes the tax on the overage and in most cases draft picks. They can spend as much as they want on a single player but if they go over the aggregate limit they'll pay penalties.
Basically, teams (lower-market teams in particular) will have less to work with in the draft. The Rangers built up their farm system through meticulous scouting, drafting players like Mark Teixeira and using them later whether it be through development or trade. The Teixeira trade got the Rangers a number of the pieces that they put out on the field today.
The draft has always been a way for smaller-market teams to try to keep up with the major-market teams. That resource has now been taken away with teams not being allowed to spend as they please when it relates to prospects.
The international free-agent rules will change as well. Similar to the draft, they'll have a signing pool and penalties.
Each team will have $2.9 million to sign international products. Teams who pride themselves on player development and scouting are now being hindered by the new rules. The Rangers in particular have worked tirelessly scouting in Latin countries to find talent.
Players like Leonys Martin and Nomar Mazara that are developed in Texas' system will be a thing of the past. Teams who spend less on development and more on established players who were scouted and groomed by smaller-market teams will benefit greatly from the new system.
In the past, when higher-valued free agents signed with another team, their former team was awarded compensation through draft picks. When Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies last year, the Rangers received two draft picks. They weren't left empty-handed.
Now fewer players would be valued high enough to merit their old team receiving compensation. Even if they do merit the picks, their original team must offer salary arbitration to the player in order to receive those picks.
Nolan Ryan getting the Rangers out of Tom Hicks' sausage fingers and their recent success has taken them out of that category of "small-market team." They've still operated and used their strategies in the past to build a team.
Major League Baseball is taking a big stand against smokeless tobacco. Players like Josh Hamilton won't be permitted to carry their snuff on them during games. They also cannot use the products during interviews or club appearances.
The players will have to wear the Rawlings S11 helmet that protect against pitches up to 100 mph. The helmets are said to be significantly less bulky than the previous models. No current Rangers player has been out for an excessive amount of time after being hit in the head but the safety of all batters in general cannot be a horrible thing.
The last two years, the Rangers were forced to forfeit home-field advantage in the World Series with the American League having lost the All-Star Game two years in a row. Regardless of how little sense the rule makes, as that game decides home field in the most important series of the year, it is the rule.
Recently, players have been opting out of the game in order to avoid injury, spend time with family or rest. Consequently, the managers have had to pick subs for the original starters. The All-Star Game has become something that players attempt to get out of and don't particularly take seriously.
Under the new agreement, participation is required if a player is voted in unless the player is injured. Other reasons may allow excuses from the commissioner's office. The game will now be more representative of what the fans vote for.
W and Nolan on Opening Day 2011. Opening Day 2012 won't be delayed.
The expanded playoffs will no doubt water down the playoffs and, in some ways, cheapen the playoffs. A team who was deep and fought hard all season could play one bad game against a lesser-known pitcher who no one in the lineup has seen and be out. It does, however, provide another avenue to make the playoffs and if Texas is that second wild-card team, I'll be singing a different tune. Win the division, own October and it won't matter.
The Astros are going to be fun. It'll be nice to have at least one away division series in the same time zone. They're clearly in a rebuilding mode but new ownership should make the games meaningful and fire up the fans.
The new CBA is going to change the way teams build. Drafting and international player caps will hurt teams like the Rangers who have put together a stellar scouting team and worked tirelessly to develop international players.
It's not a CBA that should make their front office happy but it could be worse. This CBA is crippling to the smaller-market teams. The Rangers will find a way to continue to be successful. Jon Daniels continues to put this team in a position to compete year after year.
Baseball has a CBA though. We've seen the NBA and NFL drag fans through months of not knowing if there will be seasons. Pitchers and catchers will report in late February. We won't have to miss baseball any longer than we normally have to.