Maury Brown looks at those key aspects of the new MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement which have leaked out from various sources. Brown says that there should be a deal by Tuesday.
One of the more controversial aspects of the new deal is that there will apparently be hGH testing in place. There are a variety of concerns about this, with the union having said previously they'd fight blood draws for testing, questions surrounding whether hGH can really be accurately tested for right now, and doubts about whether hGH really helps players who use it (as Keith Law pointed out on Twitter last night, something can't be a PED unless it actually E's the P).
Blogger Chass took advantage of this news to get 93 year old Marvin Miller wound up about the issue, with Miller saying that the players seemingly got nothing in return for hGH testing, and then the two of them going into "labor unions in my day didn't run from a fight"/"get off of my lawn you damn kids!" mode.
Craig Calcaterra does a good job pointing out why Miller's rancor seems a bit misplaced, and even without getting some big benny in exchange, it makes good p.r. sense for the players to agree to testing.
The other thing that is interesting to me, though, is how archaic the views of Miller and Chass seem to be, in terms of labor relations. If you're talking about the most influential people in the last 100 years of baseball, Miller would be up there with Babe Ruth and Kenesaw Mountain Landis. We take for granted nowadays that players aren't bound to one team forever, that they have the right to, at a certain point, choose where they want to play and for how much, that owners can't simply unilaterally determine how much a player is going to be paid and tell him that, if he doesn't like it, he can sit at home and get paid nothing.
We don't have that any more. We don't have spring trainings that are dominated by stories of holdouts. In fact, we don't have holdouts in baseball any more. When was the last time you can remember a professional player (not a draft pick) simply refusing to report because he didn't have a contract and couldn't agree with ownership on how much he was going to be paid?
The fact that that's the case is due in large part to Miller, who kept the players united and galvanized through various and sundry threats from owners, bad press from the mainstream media, and a multitude of strikes. His leadership is part of the reason baseball players are the best-compensated team athletes in America today.
But he's also become a relic in the post-strike baseball world. After the 1994 strike resulted in the cancellation of the World Series, we've seen labor peace. MLB and the player's union have kept their fights, for the most part, behind closed doors, have seen the damage that can happen when you turn every issue into a life-or-death battle, and have seemed to be able to work together in a manner more like a partnership than a war.
And that's been to the benefit of everyone...the players, the owners, the fans, the game itself.
But that's not the world Marvin Miller knows. He's a bare-knuckle fighter, and to him, its anathema to give the owners anything they want without getting something back in return.
That was what the player's union needed in the 60s and 70s and 80s. That's not what is needed now, though.
All that being said, there are some benefits to the players in this new deal. The league minimum will go up to $480,000 in 2012 and $500,000 in 2013. Super Twos will be 22% of players with 2-3 years service time, rather than 17%.
And critically, the old free agent compensation system is being junked. No more middle relievers being virtually unmarketable because they've been offered arbitration and will cost the team that signs them a first round pick. No more illogical, antediluvian ranking systems from a stats service that is more interested in hoarding information and protecting its status than in advancing statistical understanding of the game dictating compensation for departed free agents.
Instead, if a team is willing to pay one of its free agents $12 million for a season, and the player leaves, they get compensation. If not, they don't. Simple, easy, effective, it lets the market determine who is compensable instead of Elias.
The other big "win" for ownership is supposedly taxes and penalties if a team spends too much money in the draft or in the amateur free agent market. And while this is painted as a concession by the players, there's no reason for the union -- which represents major leaguers -- to care much one way or the other how well or poorly amateurs are compensated when they sign.
In fact, the most rational point of view would be that this is a "win" for major leaguers. Presumably, teams are going to spend the same amount of money on acquiring talent regardless of where it comes from. If there are caps on what can be spent on amateurs, that means more money is going to the major leaguers who the union represents.
Amateur spending has less to do with owners-versus-players and more to do with owners-versus-owners. Teams that are willing to spend big on amateur talent -- Boston and the Yankees, obviously, but also Texas (who angered many with the bonuses they gave out in this year's July 2 signing period), Detroit, and newcomers like Kansas City and Pittsburgh, who have shown a recent willingness to spend aggressively to acquire amateur talent. What this does is give the owners who toe Bud Selig's "slot" line a hammer to keep the other teams in line.