AL East relief for Rays? Players union would consider limited realignment
Under the right circumstances, the Rays could have the players union as a powerful ally in increasing their chances to be competitive by not having to compete as much with the Red Sox and Yankees.
New union boss Michael Weiner said after meeting with Rays players on Wednesday that the union would open to limited forms of realignment.
A massive change to the traditional MLB structure might be a bit much, Weiner said “but a realignment that I think retains the identity of the leagues but tries to address around the edges the competitive balance thing is something I think the players would have to consider.’’
Weiner, in his first spring tour of camps since replacing Donald Fehr, also suggested the schedule could be better used to address competitive balance, such as the way the NFL does "very aggressively" by having the better teams face tougher opponents. One option would be for MLB to return to more of a balanced schedule so the Rays don’t, as current arranged, play more than 20 percent of their games (36 of 162) against the Red Sox and Yankees.
Weiner said most of the questions he gets from players in the meetings (the Rays were his 26th club of the spring) have to do with concerns about free agency – specifically how some veterans were treated, the pace of the market and if the teams are “acting in concert or they’re acting individually.’’
But he said the players care about competitive balance, too.
“I think that most players believe that there is competitive balance in baseball,’’ he said. But, “I’m not saying players wouldn’t recognize the challenges that American League East teams face having the Red Sox and the Yankees over the course of the last x numbers of years.’’
Also of concern, he said, is what team officials mean when they talk about the issue.
“I think that players always scrutinize when the words "competitive balance" are thrown out whether it’s really about competitive balance, or whether that’s just really about cost containment or cost reduction,’’ Weiner said. “Management is perfectly entitled to want to try to contain or reduce costs, but don’t say we’re interested in competitive balance if we’re trying to contain costs. And I think in earlier negotiations that was more of an issue; I think now that blurring is a little bit less.’’
Weiner wouldn’t get into specifics of what, if any changes to the financial structure the union might seek the next negotiation. Asked if there would be anything that could help the Rays, he said:
“I don’t have a specific response as it relates to the Rays or the Orioles or the situation in the American League East. We’ve done, and by we I mean the collective bargaining parties, have done an awful lot in terms of revenue sharing, in terms of other provisions of the Basic Agreement, that address that. I would imagine that Andrew (Friedman, the Rays executive vice president) and any of the executives here would say that the revenue sharing dollars that that they have received were very instrumental in the Rays‘ on-field success the last two seasons. So it’s something that’s constantly monitored, in terms of the recent public suggestions about doing something specifically to deal with having the Yankees and the Red Sox in the same division, that’s not something I’ve discussed with the guys yet.
“Obviously, there are big revenue considerations fro the owners’ side with respect to that. A lot of sports try to enhance rivalries – it’s viewed as a goal as opposed to changing those. But that specific suggestion is not something I’ve discussed with the players yet.’’
He also said all teams that receive revenue sharing are constantly monitored to make sure they spend the funds as intended, to field a more competitive team.