Ottawa Citizen

New deal extends labour peace

New accord byproduct of ‘ Golden Age’

- BY JEREMY SANDLER

ST. LOUIS • It turns out Jim Leyland’s wisdom in the ways of baseball extends to the business side of the sport.

After word got out yesterday that major- league owners and the players’ associatio­n had reached a five- year agreement two months before the previous one was to expire, the Detroit Tigers manager cut right to the heart of the issue.

“ I think you always have a better relationsh­ip when both sides are making money,” he said. “ That kind of always seems to work out in the end, doesn’t it?”

The agreement, which is valid through Dec. 11, 2011, keeps revenue- sharing in place, but it also increases the threshold at which baseball’s luxury tax kicks in from $ 136.5 million U. S. for this past season to $ 178 million in 2011.

Only the New York Yankees, with a payroll of more than $ 200 million this year, would have been above that figure.

Baseball, which had eight work stoppages between 1972 and 1995, will have gone 16 years without a labour stoppage by the end of the new agreement. That is the longest uninterrup­ted stretch since players formed their union in 1966. The five- year term of the deal is also the longest in the history of the sport.

Arbitratio­n dates move from late December to early December under the new deal, which also makes some changes to the compensati­on rules for signing free agents. Home- field advantage for the World Series will continue to be awarded to the representa­tive of the league that wins the All- Star Game.

Both sides trumpeted the early signing of the deal as symbolic of the health of the game and a new age of co- operation between the two groups.

“ We’re in the midst of baseball’s Golden Age,” commission­er Bud Selig said, noting that revenues of $ 5.2 billion were more than four times what they had been 14 years ago. “ The last agreement produced stunning growth in revenue. I believe, five years from now, people will be stunned at how we grew the sport.”

Players’ associatio­n head Donald Fehr also trumpeted the early closing of the deal as a signal of a new era of co- operation.

“ What was really different this time was that the approach to bargaining … was very workmanlik­e, very pragmatic, very day- by- day,” Fehr said.

Arizona Diamondbac­ks shortstop Craig Counsell, a negotiator for the players’ side, said players were happy to avoid the negative publicity that surrounded their strike of 1994.

“ Labour peace is good for the game,” Counsell said. “ Interest is at an all- time high. We feel like, when the focus is on the field, it’s good for baseball and it’s good for us as well.”

One contentiou­s issue unchanged in the new collective bargaining agreement is majorleagu­e baseball’s drug testing policy.

Instituted last year after steroid scandals involving several major stars went public, the new deal does nothing to deal with widespread criticism that baseball’s current testing protocols ignore the use of substances such as human growth hormone.

“ Look, the answer is ( that) there is no test,” Selig said when he was asked if players would be required to provide blood samples to test for human growth hormone ( HGH). “ We will try to be in the forefront. The players’ associatio­n has been very co- operative on this score. We’re going to do everything we can, but there’s no point discussing something for which there is no test.”

Fehr, whose union has opposed blood tests as too invasive, said the players were open to testing for HGH. “ If a urine test is developed that is scientific­ally validated and all the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed, there’s an understand­ing that we will adopt that test,” he said.

AGREEMENT: THE HIGHLIGHTS, D4

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