PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. — Major League Baseball and its players’ union will begin contract talks soon with none of the rancor and lockout threats that are plaguing the NFL and NBA.
“We’re on a constructive path,” Commissioner Bud Selig said.
Selig offered a rosy picture of the economics of the coming seasons on Thursday and praised the solid relationship that his staff has formed with the union.
The two-day gathering, described by Selig as “a non-controversial meeting,” wrapped up at a quiet Phoenix-area resort on Thursday with a meeting of the special committee formed a year ago to come up with on-field changes for the game.
First on the agenda, Selig said, were three umpires to address the idea of expanding instant replay. The commissioner indicated he would like to proceed cautiously.
“In spite of the fact we’ve had 18 years of more change than ever before in the history of baseball,” he said, “I’m still very cautious. Baseball is different. The pace of the game is very important.”
More work needs to be done, Selig said, on the idea of expanding the playoffs by adding another wild-card team in each league.
“I feel good about it,” he said. “‘I think there’s a lot of interest but we have some detail to work out. That’s really the crucial question.”
Any changes to the use of replays or the addition of the wild-card playoff teams will not be implemented until 2012, at the earliest.
During his speach to the owners, Selig warned the clubs about overspending. The current labor contract expires in December.
Selig said that, looking back, “there was no reason for optimism” in the 2002 contract talks, which ended with an agreement just hours before players were to strike, but “it was a miracle right at the end.”
In 2006, the sides announced an agreement before Game 3 of the World Series, nearly two months before the labor contract was set to expire.
Selig wouldn’t predict that smooth a process this time, but he did note the tone of the negotiations had changed for the better.
“The one thing that is so really shockingly different in some ways is that back in the ’702, ’80s, even starting in the late ’60s, there was all the anger expressed,” Selig said. “Owners mad at owners, owners mad at the union, everybody mad at the commissioner, whoever that was at the time. You don’t see or hear any of that the last five to 10 years.”
The day began with a startling development when Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, senior vice president for baseball operations in the commissioner’s office, experienced dizziness and a rapid heartbeat and was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital. Selig said Robinson was doing well and that tests for any severe problems were negative.