ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that Major League Baseball owners and players have agreed to a variety of rule changes for implementation over the next couple of years. But as he notes, the most important part of this agreement may be that labor and management are finally talking after years of increasing disagreements between the two sides.
Spurred by labor relations discord amid a second consecutive free-agent market that has left players disappointed, the mid-collective-bargaining-agreement negotiations represent a step forward between two sides that had squabbled privately and publicly. Perhaps the most important part of the deal isn’t the elimination of August trades, the tweaking of All-Star Game starter selections, the incentives for stars to participate in the derby, the elimination of one-out relievers or the addition of a 26th player next year. It’s the provision that the sides will begin discussing labor issues imminently, far earlier than they typically would with a CBA that doesn’t expire until December 2021.
Baseball has grown dramatically since the 1994-95 strike that devastated the game and ended up with the cancellation of the 1994 World Series (the first time it wasn’t played since 1903).
Much of the pace-of-play concern stems from worry that fans aren’t willing to sit through or watch long games in a world where everyone has more content options. But let’s be clear: a strike or lock-out would do far more to hurt baseball than a pitcher taking longer than 20 seconds to deliver a pitch to the plate.
The owners and players need to figure out how to address the real economic issues facing the sport without a strike or lockout. They cannot take the risk that people will permanently find other ways to spend their time or money if baseball goes away.
I’ll share thoughts on the rule changes after Major League Baseball officially announces them later today.