Union chief: Contraction not a likely threat to Rays
Contraction is not likely to be a threat to the Rays existence, players union chief Michael Weiner said today, and if the owners do raise the idea of eliminating teams in the upcoming labor negotiations, the union is poised to fight it.
"Having been in bargaining in baseball since the late '80s, anything is fathomable, so we don't either take anything for granted or rule anything out,'' Weiner said after meeting with Rays players as part of the annual spring camp tour. "Do I think it's likely that the owners are going to try to contract, I don't. Do I think there's - to borrow your word - a "legitimate" reason to contract, i don't think there is. All I would say is if that changes, if contraction becomes a goal of the owners in this negotiation, the tenor of the talks would change quickly and dramatically.''
The idea has not been raised formally by any baseball officals, but has been floated recently in several national media forums.
Weiner on other Rays related topics:
* The slashing of their payroll:
"We can't say that we're happy with that. ... Tampa's been a a great story on the field, and a very entertaining and exciting team, and we want to see 30 healthy franchises. so like we did last year and we do always, we will monitor through the commissioner's office everything that's happening with the franchise, how they're using their revenue sharing proceeeds, whether they're complying with our contract. Bargaining is always an opportunity for us to adjust the revenue sharing plan as well as other provisions of the basic agreement to account for changes in the economic and competitive landscape. Clearly this is a franchise that the result of that process critical to this franchise. I think the process has worked in the past, I think, in general and hopefully it will create an environment that will allow the ownership group here to really thrive."
* The possibility of realignment or switching to a more balanced schedule:
"I know that all of those topics will be part of bargaining, we've had internal discussions with our players on all of those subjects, I know that the others through the vehicle of Bud Selig's on-field committee have been discussing those as well. So all those alternatives will be part of collective bargaining. It's complicated, there's a lot of different pieces of the puzzle and they don't always all move in the same direction. ... all of that will be part of bargaining.''
* The pursuit of a new stadium:
"That's a complicated sitution. You know the history, it wasn't that this ownership group or any ownership group sat around and said where is the best place in the metroplitan area to locate a stadium. The politicial environment is obviously much different than it was even just a few years ago in terms of public contributions to those sorts of things. So all I'd say is, look, we share an interest with the owners that all of the franchises try to thrive. This isn't football where most of the money comes in centrally, we need each team to try to do as well as they can in their markets and whatever Stu Sternberg and the rest of the ownership group can do to accomplish that, we would support.''
* The effort to be successful despite a lack attendance:
"In one sense every team is unique because you've to look in terms of revenues at the media opportunites as well as the gate opportunities. I think the rays have done pretty well media-wise among the 30 teams and obviously attendance is not waht you'd hope for. So i wouldn't say unique. What baseball has shown, I think there's agreement, certainly more agreement than there used to be between the owners and the union about competitive balance in the game. Whether it's the Rays or whether it's a number of other teams even just over the term of this contract just look at the teams that hgave made the playoffs, that have made the World Series, quote any numbers you want, I don't think many people would have gotten right Texas vs. San Francisco.
When we announced the new basic agreement at the World Series in St. Louis in "06, if somebody said you'd see Colorado and Tampa and Texas and San Francisco playing in the World Series in the first four yearas, plus the other teams that made the playoffs, Minnesota's success another example, I think what the system is designed to do is to allow teams to run their business the best way to fit or adapt to their local conditions. That's different than the other sports, very locally driven economics of baseball. And for the most part, teams have done over the years have done a very good job with those, with those, doing the best to run their businesses in those particular circumstances, their local markets."