Hopefully the honeymoon isn’t over. Throughout the entire season, both the players and the owners have refrained from propaganda and vitriol in regards to the current Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire this offseason. By all accounts, both sides seemed relatively in tune with what needs to be done and focused on getting a deal done quickly after the season ends. Unlike Football and Basketball, sports with new agreements revolving so much around money, Baseball doesn’t have revenue issues to hammer out. Worst case scenario, they hit a dead-lock on an extra Wild Card team or re-alignment. If that were the case, both sides could easily shelf the discussion and still get a deal done.
Then, two bombs dropped like secret assassins in the night. The first was Baseball’s first positive HGH test for a Minor League player, resulting in a 50-game ban. The second, and probably more troubling of the two, was Bud Selig’s reaction to how much teams like the Pirates were paying their draft picks.
Former Major Leaguer Mike Jacobs, who was currently struggling through a Minor League stint with Colorado’s Triple-A affiliate, became the first professional baseball player to test positive for HGH. Testing was implemented in Minor League Baseball in July 2010. Major League Baseball has yet to implement the testing, but will surely be faced with questions during CBA negotiations. The players and Union are worried about the perceived invasion of privacy that blood testing for HGH represents. This news was followed by Bud Selig’s reaction to draft pick signings.
The Pirates paid a reported $17 million in guaranteed money to their 2011 draft picks, a strategy designed to provide long-term, home-grown talent. According to Sports Illustrated, Major League teams spent a combined $236 million. Bud Selig was not happy about this, and word from the ownership meetings was that he is looking to impose a hard cap on draft signings.
Let’s address the first issue. HGH testing is being done in the NFL, and given Baseball’s track record for PED use, will not be leaving Minor League Baseball anytime soon. Player concerns over blood testing are understandable. The privacy concerns are legitimate. Should the tests reveal any other diseases or ailments, the players have little trust that this information will remain private. Just look at the Mitchell Report for proof that anonymous doesn’t really mean anonymous in Baseball. The importance of maintaining what’s left of the game’s integrity will likely outweigh player concerns. Testing in the Minors will remain, but it still may be awhile before we see such testing with Major League players. It will come though.
Unlike the player concerns addressed above, the contracts paid to draft picks is an ownership concern. At least that’s what we are meant to believe considering Bud Selig essentially represents the owners. The problem with Selig’s desire for a hard cap on draft signings in Baseball, and why the new NFL rookie pay-scale system couldn’t work in Baseball, is because the closest thing Major League Baseball has to a salary cap is the luxury tax. To impose any sort of cap on baseball would be a large change to a system, that while often criticized, has faired pretty well over the years. The slippery slope concern of a draft pick hard cap leading to an overall salary cap is very real.
While it would be easy to say players and owners should just compromise, that’s not as easy a solution as it sounds. You have one player issue and one owner issue right? So the players make a concession and the owners make a concession. All solved. Wrong. The players feel strongly about their opposition to blood testing, and Bud Selig feels strongly about the need for a draft pick hard cap.
Things have been tame on the CBA front up to this point, but come the offseason, I’m concerned the honeymoon might be over.