Michael Weiner is the new executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association and this week finished up his rounds of visiting all MLB teams to meet with players. I caught up with him after one such session.
Much has been made of the trial balloon floated regarding realignment of MLB’s divisions, largely due to the dominance of the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East.
The idea originated with the committee set up by Commissioner Bud Selig to consider any and all changes that might improve the game.
The “floating plan” would allow for realignment annually based on geography, payroll and the ability to compete in a division at any given time.
Weiner said that is not a “front burner” issue with the players.
“We’re trying to deal with the postseason schedule and some other things that are a bit more timely,” said Weiner.
However, Weiner believes it may be easier for the players to come to an agreement on realignment than the owners.
“There’s competitive considerations, there’s revenue considerations, there’s schedule and travel and player considerations,” he said. “That’s a lot of moveable parts that many of the owners may have different views on.”
Selig told MLB.com this spring, “I do believe in some realignment because I do believe it can work, just as I believed in the wild card, interleague play and revenue sharing. It’s something that I want to keep thinking about.”
The postseason schedule is more pressing to the players. Weiner said players on the executive board feel there are too many days off.
“It’s no longer like baseball,” said Weiner.
That issue and the question of a five- or seven-game division series will be part of the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players. The current deal expires in December 2011.
The current feeling of the players seems to be that the five-game division series is just too short.
He said new talks will officially begin “probably about this time next year. Everybody on both sides would love to be in a position to complete a deal without the threat of a stoppage.”
As to blood testing of players for HGH (human growth hormone), now banned by baseball, Weiner is cautious.
“Once we have a test that is scientifically valid, that can be safely administered, that can be administered to the players without interfering with their job, then we’ll have a test,” Weiner said.
Weiner is clearly concerned the veracity of such tests is still an issue, despite claims to the contrary by John Fahey, president of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Fahey was quoted on the agency’s Web site as saying it was “nonsense” for MLB and the MLBPA to be questioning such testing.
Weiner heads home today with his spring training stops in Arizona and Florida complete. Despite the heady issues facing the MLBPA, Weiner says, “I have been treated with kid gloves by you guys [the press].”
His smile says he knows that’s only temporary.