May 27, 2018
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Baseball owners, players happy to keep talks quiet

By Gary Thorne, Special to the News

Promotion and visibility are ideals all sports long to have on a daily basis to help sell the games and tickets.

However, there are times when flying under the radar is just fine. That is the case for Major League Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association regarding contract negotiations that have quietly begun this spring.

The collective bargaining agreement in baseball ends in December. The NFL and NBA negotiations have taken center stage in both sports. Baseball wants no part of that.

Commissioner Bud Selig has made it clear to the owners that he wants nothing said about negotiations, including personal opinions.

Players’ Association leader Michael Weiner has said the same to the players and is himself simply saying the negotiations will kick off with a couple of meetings this spring and begin in earnest when the regular season starts.

Weiner told after his first spring meeting with a team this year that he felt both sides are, “I’ll say satisfied with the basic structure of the reserve system, in terms of salary arbitration and free agency. Having said that, I know we will have some proposals in those areas. I would imagine that the owners will have some as well. I don’t think any of them will be viewed as radical or fundamental changes. It’s not going to be complete acceptance of the existing language as it is by either side, but I don’t think either side is looking to rewrite the agreement in a fundamental way.”

All of this is good news for baseball fans.

This will probably be the last negotiations that will occur while Selig is commissioner. He continues to talk retirement. He wants no labor dispute to mar the conclusion to this term.

The danger is all the talk going on in the public labor sector and the demands being made on unions to give back.

It would be easy, if not financially justifiable, for an owner or two to question the $3 million average salary of players and attempt to build a public push against the players.

The problem with any such course is that last year MLB took in $7 billion. While there are teams struggling, it’s about division of the pie, not a lesser pie to divide.

That is why Selig responded quickly and pointedly to Yankee owner Hank Steinbrenner’s recent remarks about the need to adjust the revenue sharing numbers, claiming the Yankees are paying too much to teams that maybe shouldn’t even be in the majors.

Selig said some tweaking in the area needed to be done, but wanted to make it abundantly clear the issue was not something that would mess up negotiations.

In fact, revenue sharing at this point is more about the owners coming to an agreement than the owners and players discussing the issue.

Selig and the players both seem to understand that the best they can do is keep the games going and talk quietly while the fans are watching between the lines, not outside them.

What a nice difference that would be.

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