MLB Commissioner hopeful of Labour Deal by Start of December
CLEVELAND – Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is hopeful an agreement on a new labour contract will be reached before the current deal expires Dec. 1.
Negotiators for management and the players’ association have been meeting in New York this week. The 2006 contract was announced during the World Series and the 2011 agreement on Nov. 22.
“There are certain natural deadlines that kind of flow around the end of the World Series and then through the expiration date of the agreement,” Manfred said Wednesday before Game 2. “Each of the last couple of times we’ve either gotten it done during the World Series or a few days afterwards. I remain optimistic that we’re going to be in that same window in terms of getting it done.”
Primary issues include luxury tax thresholds, management’s desire for a draft of international amateur players, changes in schedule rules to ease travel and international play such as regular-season games in London. Baseball has not had a work stoppage since the 1994-95 strike that led to the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years.
Manfred was management’s primary negotiator for the last three labour deals, then succeeded Bud Selig as commissioner in January 2015. Former All-Star first baseman Tony Clark is leading players in talks for the first time; he took over as union head following the death of Michael Weiner in November 2013.
Manfred said whether an agreement is reached during this year’s Series “depends on how long the World Series goes.”
On other topics:
Cleveland’s 6-0 win over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night drew the highest rating on Fox for a Series opener since 2009. Viewers are intrigued by the Cubs’ quest for their first title since 1908; the Indians have not won since 1948.
An average of 19.4 million viewers watched on Fox, up 30 per cent from the 14.9 million average for Kansas City’s 14-inning Game 1 win over the New York Mets last year.
“We define our post-season challenge as finding narratives that takes our tremendous season-long, local audiences, and draws them into the post-season, even if their team is not there in the post-season,” Manfred said. “I think that the narrative surrounding 68 years in Cleveland and 108 years in Chicago is exactly the recipe that we need to take that tremendous local fan interest that goes on all season long and draws it into the post-season. And the rating last night was a first indication that that narrative is going to be powerful.”
OLYMPICS/WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC
“It is imperative that our sport continue to develop a broader international footprint,” he said. “It is the way that the media landscape is going to evolve, attracting international audiences is going to be absolutely crucial. I think it’s an area where we need to continue to focus. Our players need to be prepared to go to different countries and play, because I think it’s crucial to building the popularity of the game in other countries.”
The next WBC is scheduled for March.
“Given the difficulties associated with playing major league players in the Olympics, I think it’s important for baseball to continue to have a premier international event. We need to work hard to make sure that the WBC is that event,” he said.
Manfred plans to meet with Indians owner Paul Dolan following the Series to discuss the team’s continued use of the controversial Chief Wahoo logo. The smiling, red-faced symbol has stirred strong opinions for years. Manfred said he understands “that particular logo is offensive to some people, and all of us at Major League Baseball understand why.”
Manfred also appreciated the segment of fans who are attached to Chief Wahoo, which still appears on some of the Indians caps and sleeves of game jerseys.
The Indians dropped Chief Wahoo as their primary logo three years ago, replacing it with a block “C”, but that isn’t enough for some groups who want it abolished completely.
Manfred said he and Dolan agreed to put of discussion until after the Series.
OAKLAND AND TAMPA BAY BALLPARKS
“I think both Tampa and Oakland are major league markets, and we need major league-quality facilities in those two markets,” Manfred said.
The St. Petersburg City Council voted in January to give the Rays permission to search for new ballpark sites on both sides of Tampa Bay. The team’s current lease at Tropicana Field expires in 2027.
“I don’t see me in a position of making an immediate timetable or putting a timetable out there immediately, because we’re far enough away from the end of the lease,” Manfred said.