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Bucking trend, MLB ensures labor peace

NEW YORK — Commissioner Bud Selig and union head Michael Weiner smiled and exchanged handshakes while others in the room dug into knishes and pigs in a blanket.

Not exactly the kind of scene that played out in sports labor talks this year.

Baseball ensured itself of 21 consecutive years of peace at a time the NBA season might be canceled because of a lockout and the NFL still is recovering from its CBA negotiations.

"We've learned," Selig said Tuesday after players and owners signed an agreement for a five-year contract running until December 2016. "Nobody back in the '70s, '80s and the early '90s, 1994, would ever believe that we would have 21 years of labor peace."

The agreement makes MLB the first pro major league in North America to conduct blood tests for human growth hormone, allowing it during spring training and future offseasons but for now only studying whether it will be implemented during the regular season.

"MLB and the players union should be applauded for taking the strong step to implement the HGH test at the major league level to protect clean athletes," said Travis Tygart, chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. "This is great progress in MLB's effort to protect the integrity of baseball at every level."

The deal, which must be ratified by both sides and drafted into a formal contract, expands the playoffs from eight to 10 teams by 2013, lessens draft-pick compensation for free agents, expands salary arbitration by a few players and for the first time allows teams to trade some draft selections.

It also adds unprecedented restraints on signing bonuses for amateur players coming to the major leagues from high school, college and overseas, perhaps hurting MLB as it competes with the NFL and NBA for multisport talent.

"If I've got a great athlete, why am I going to go to baseball? I'm going to focus on the other sports," said agent Scott Boras, who has negotiated baseball's highest signing bonuses.

As for the playoffs, there will be an additional two teams that will give baseball 10 of 30 clubs in the postseason. In the NFL, 12 of 32 teams make the playoffs. In the NBA and NHL, 16 of 30 advance.

Adding a wild card should help the Rays, but limiting amateur bonuses could be a blow to a team that relies heavily on scouting. Team president Matt Silverman said the Rays would need some time to "read and digest" the new CBA before discussing how it impacts them.

Following eight work stoppages from 1972-95, baseball reached its third consecutive agreement without an interruption of play. The agreement was signed three weeks before the current deal was to expire Dec. 11, the second straight time the sides reached a deal early.

ASTROS SALE: The sale of the Astros to Jim Crane from Drayton McLane was completed. Owners unanimously approved the long-delayed sale Thursday, a transaction that requires the franchise to move from the NL Central to the AL West in 2013.

MARLINS-PADRES TRADE: Miami acquired left-hander Wade LeBlanc from San Diego for catcher John Baker.

INDIANS: Outfielder Grady Sizemore agreed to terms on a contract, according to reports. Terms were not disclosed. Sizemore became a free agent when Cleveland declined his option.

RED SOX: International scouting director Craig Shipley left the organization after nine years. Also, Mike Hazen and Brian O'Halloran were appointed assistant general managers.

YANKEES: Closer Mariano Rivera, 41, said he might need surgery to repair his vocal cords, which he has had trouble with for about a month.

Bucking trend, MLB ensures labor peace 11/22/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 10:11pm]

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