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Breaking down the new CBA

Chris Ruddick,
MLB Editor


Rounding Third Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Fool me once shame on you ... Fool me twice shame on me.

Perhaps Major League Baseball watched what the National Football League went through this summer, or what the National Basketball Association is going through now, or just maybe they learned from their own mistakes from way back in 1994 when they lost a postseason and part of the next season because of a labor dispute.

Either way, kudos to Commissioner Bud Selig and MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner on agreeing to a new collective bargaining agreement, a five- year deal that essentially replaces the one that was set to expire on December 11. And they did so in quite an under the radar matter.

Take that NBA.

But in defense of the NFL and NBA, the biggest changes in MLB's new agreement have to do with competitive balance and playoff expansion and really have little to do with revenue sharing or any type of salary cap structuring.

As announced last week, the Houston Astros will move from the National League Central to the American League West, evening the respective leagues at 15 teams for the start of the 2013 season. As a result, interleague play will go on all season - like every other sport in North America - rather than just a select portion of the year.

Some people have moaned about that. Who cares? Every other sport does it. It's not a big deal. But if you are going to go to year-round interleague play, you probably should have addressed the designated hitter rule. It just points out even further now how dumb it is that the two leagues still have different rules with regards to that.

In addition two more wild card teams will be added giving the leagues five playoff teams apiece. That could actually go into effect next season. The division winners will be rewarded with some extra rest and time to set up their pitching staffs, as the two wild card teams will compete in a one-game playoff.

I was all for the wild card back in 1994 and am even more for adding a new team, especially if it means one-game playoffs every year. Yea the final day of the season was great this past year, but it was a one-time thing.

Plus who's to say it can't happen again with this new format?

If anything it will keep more teams alive longer, which as a fan is all you can really ask for.

Carlos Beltran
The MLB agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement in quite an under the radar matter.
Instant Replay will also be expanded to include fair/foul and "trapped" ball plays. Again another good move. If there is a way to get the play right, then just get the play right.

Perhaps the most significant item in the new deal is the fact that MLB will begin blood testing for human growth hormone, or HGH, as early as this spring. It will make MLB the first major North American sport to blood test unionized players. Baseball has tested minor league players since 2010 because it didn't need the union's consent.

Players will be subjected to the same performance enhancing drug penalties as before, meaning a first positive HGH test will result in a 50-game suspension. Players will be submit blood tests this spring, but the first real testing will begin next winter.

Of course there are also some other changes. The minimum salary will increase to $480,000 this year to as much as $500,000 by the time this CBA is complete; there will be luxury cap tweaks in regards to the draft and international free agents, as well as changes in the compensation awarded to teams who lose free agents.

Gone are the Elias rankings which previously determined compensation. Now only players who have been with their clubs for the entire season will be subject to compensation.

A free agent will be subject to compensation if his former club offers him a guaranteed one-year contract with a salary equal to the average salary of the 125-highest paid players from the prior season. The offer must be made at the end of the five-day free agent "quiet period", and the player will have seven days to accept the offer.

A club that signs a player subject to compensation will forfeit its first round selection, unless it selects in the top 10, in which case it will forfeit its second highest selection in the draft.

The player's former club will receive a selection at the end of the first round beginning after the last regularly scheduled selection in the round. The former clubs will select based on reverse order of winning percentage from the prior championship season.

That, though, won't go into effect until next offseason.

If there is one complaint about the new CBA it has to do with the Rule 4, or first-year player draft. Teams will now be penalized for overspending on draft bonuses according to newly established thresholds. At first glance you would think that teams like Boston, New York, or Philadelphia would be in that category, but it's the smaller market teams that have actually spent the most money on draft bonuses in recent years.

A team like Pittsburgh, which has been one of the bigger spending teams at the draft, figured out that investing big in amateur talent, rather than major league free agents would be the way to go for them to compete with big market clubs. Now they could be penalized with draft picks should they go over the threshold. Essentially a salary cap even if it's not a hard cap. It makes no sense.

Plus it is a steep price to pay. If a team goes 10-15-percent over the designated threshold, they will be taxed 100-percent and lose a first and second round pick. Should they go 15-percent or more above they will face a 100-percent tax, in addition to losing two first round picks.

Teams will also lose a first round pick if they go 5-10-percent over.

Perhaps that's balanced out by the fact that now the 10 clubs with the lowest revenue will have a chance at extra draft picks through a lottery system. Those teams will be entered into a lottery for the six draft selections immediately following the completion of the first round of the draft.

You have to give MLB credit. For a league that had every labor negotiation between the owners and players from the mid-1970s on end in either a strike or a lockout up until the worst possible scenario in 1994, by the time this deal is done they will have had 21 years of labor peace.

Maybe it's not that big of a deal, but stuff like that goes a long way with fans. Perhaps this is just another step towards reclaiming its title of America's pastime.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Ruddick at cruddick@sportsnetwork.com.

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