MLB Rule Changes...

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T15D23
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MLB Rule Changes...

Postby T15D23 » Thu Feb 28, 2019 6:25 pm

Baseball’s owners, players making progress on rules changes; economic discussions still to come
Ken Rosenthal

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A break​ from the​ growing​ tension​ between baseball​ players and owners finally​ appears​ within reach.

The two​ sides have​ made significant​​ progress toward an agreement on a number of rules changes, proceeding with the understanding they would discuss broader economic concepts sometime after Opening Day, major-league sources tell The Athletic.

Negotiations over economics in the middle of a collective-bargaining agreement would be virtually unprecedented in nearly a half-century of labor relations in baseball. The players’ union would seek to address its competitive-integrity concerns, and every aspect of the game’s economic structure potentially would be in play.

A series of extensive changes conceivably could result in an extension of the CBA, which expires on Dec. 1, 2021. But baseball’s willingness to engage in such talks – while an acknowledgment of the players’ growing frustration with the current economic system – hardly assures the owners would significantly alter a deal they agreed upon just over two years ago.

Before advancing to the larger discussion, officials from the players’ union and baseball first must finalize a smaller agreement that would include a number of provisions both sides consider to be “win-win.” The deal likely would be based upon baseball’s most recent proposal to the union, which was first reported by ESPN. Included in that proposal:

• A three-batter minimum for pitchers, starting in 2020.
• An expansion to a 26-man roster with a maximum of 13 pitchers, also starting in ‘20.
• A 28-man roster in September with a 14-pitcher maximum.
• A reduction in mound visits from six to five in 2019 and five to four in 2020.
• Shorter innings breaks.

In its proposal, baseball agreed to abandon its quest for a pitch clock until at least the next round of collective-bargaining negotiations, which currently would take place prior to the 2022 season. The players might not have approved any deal that included a clock, sources say, but commissioner Rob Manfred maintained the right to unilaterally implement one for the 2019 season.

An agreement that does not include a clock but guarantees 30 more jobs would constitute a triumph for the union. Baseball, too, would be happy with such a deal. The three-batter minimum for pitchers likely would result in fewer pitching changes, enhancing the pace of play. The reduced number of mound visits, roster limits on pitchers and shortened innings breaks would figure to create similar benefits, and the fiasco of 40-man rosters in September would be eliminated once and for all.

The union initially sought to address its competitive concerns by proposing draft incentives and service-time adjustments, knowing more sweeping economic changes were unlikely in the middle of the CBA. Baseball acknowledged the union’s concerns by countering both proposals, but the sides were so far apart the union believed it better to pursue a narrower focus, sources said. The union almost certainly would re-introduce the ideas, along with more far-reaching economic elements, in the next round of discussions.

How much the two sides could accomplish in those discussions remains to be seen, but an agreement on the on-field issues at least would establish momentum, enabling the union to quell baseball’s skepticism that it is incapable of making a deal. Baseball also might be motivated to grant certain concessions rather than face three more years of players squawking about the CBA.

The acrimony between the two sides has permeated the baseball conversation for much of the offseason. An agreement on rules changes would provide a welcome respite from the public sniping. Future adjustments might put the sport in an even better place.
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