NEW YORK — Baseball’s new labor contract includes more video replay, the chance for a longer All-Star break and a small, but likely welcome perk for players: the chance to get a private room instead of a roommate during spring training.
The Associated Press obtained the document that includes several changes, many starting next year. Among them:
• allowing teams from the same division to meet in the playoffs before the league championship series.
• a ban on players getting tattoos with corporate logos.
• the possibility of players wearing microphones during games.
Players have already ratified the hundreds of pages contained in Major League Baseball’s Memorandum of Understanding. Owners are scheduled to vote Thursday.
Also part of the deal: Any big leaguer who wants to change uniform numbers without switching teams better give eight months’ notice unless he’s willing to buy warehouses full of his overstocked jerseys.
MLB wants to expand replay to include fair-or-foul calls, “whether a fly ball or line drive was trapped” and fan interference all around the ballpark. Umpires still must give their approval and it’s uncertain whether the extra replay will be in place by opening day.
Video review began in August 2008, but only to look at potential home runs.
The All-Star break will be expanded to four days, rather than the traditional three-day gap. The five-year deal says starting in 2013 that MLB “shall have the right to elect to switch the All-Star game from Tuesday to Wednesday and the Home Run Derby from Monday to Tuesday.” Sixty-nine of 82 All-Star games have been played on Tuesday, according to STATS LLC.
Gone, too, are the days of roommates, something that dates back decades, to the days players rode the rails to Florida. Now, all players on 40-man rosters are assured of single rooms during spring training. They’ve had that perk during the regular season since 1997.
And for players thinking about selling ads on their bodies, MLB has thought ahead. The agreement says “no player may have any visible markings or logos tattooed on his body” as part of the uniform regulations.
“Just trying to head something off at the pass,” said Rob Manfred, baseball’s executive vice president for labor relations.
The NFL has a rule against “unauthorized commercial identification,” according to spokesman Greg Aiello, and the NBA has a rule banning corporate insignia, spokesman Mike Bass said. Baseball appears to be the first U.S. major pro league to specifically ban commercial tattoos.
Quick uniform number switches will be a thing of the past.
Players must tell the commissioner’s office by July 31 of the preceding year if they want a new jersey. That is, unless “the player (or someone on his behalf) purchases the existing finished goods inventory of apparel containing the player’s jersey number.” As in, every replica jersey, jacket, T-shirt, mug and anything else with a number that’s anywhere in stock.
The deal also bans players and team officials from asking official scorers to reconsider decisions — clubs must instead send video to MLB to appeal calls — and increases punishments for slow-moving hitters and pitchers, raising pace-of-game fines up to $10,000 each for the sixth violation and beyond.
There are several provisions regarding players’ conduct. They include:
• a ban on players betting with illegal bookies on any sport.
• new language allowing the commissioner to discipline players for violating federal, state or local law or for conduct “materially detrimental or materially prejudicial to the best interests of baseball.”
• possible suspensions for intentionally throwing a ball or equipment at non-uniformed personnel with the intention of causing bodily harm; for assaulting fans, media or umpires; or for making public statements that question the integrity of the game, the umpires, the commissioner or the commissioner’s staff.
“Just want to make sure our rules are up to date,” Manfred said. “In general we looked at the rules and thought we had some things that could be tighter.”
Players also can be disciplined for violating MLB’s social media policy, which still is being developed.
The agreement calls for nicknames written on equipment to “not reasonably likely to offend fans, business partners, players and others associated with the game.”
Eliminating a practice of some teams, there is a prohibition on “taxi squads” — calling up players from the minors and not activating them. Also, teams may only invite players to offseason minicamps if they are not yet eligible for salary arbitration.
The deal includes a new schedule format starting in 2013, when there will be six five-team divisions, with no more than 20 interleague games per team. Teams will play 17 or 18 times against division opponents, with the exact format still to be worked out.
And there’s at least one issue still to be decided.
For the postseason, the sides agreed to negotiate on tiebreaker rules — do teams tied for the last wild-card berth meet on the field, or will the tie be broken by a formula?