Who would have thought that the league that once canceled the World Series would be the only league with an expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement to avoid labor war in 2011?
That's just what Major League Baseball and the Players Association did on Tuesday when they announced a new CBA after a short, easy negotiation that allowed all of us to avoid hearing two sides of rich people acting like they were being put through great hardship by agreeing to accept slightly less money each year. For that, we thank the owners and players from the bottom of our hearts.
Yankee fans should also be thanking them for the deal that they wound up making because, on the surface, it does little to address any of the advantage they have because of their financial position. In fact, it may even strengthen it.
The changes that are going to get the biggest headlines are the HGH testing, increased replay and addition of one more Wild Card in each league (which doesn't exactly hurt the Yankees), but the changes to the way teams can pay players entering the league will have the most impact on the game. In an effort to cut down on spending in the draft and international markets, the new CBA puts serious restraints on how much teams can spend.
Teams will have a draft pool of money to spend and if they go over it they will be taxed and/or lose first-round picks in the future. There will also be a pool of money for international signings, weighted against better teams, but the money is less, in some cases, than what some top prospects have signed for in the past.
Some have argued that this sharp cut in spending will seriously impact the talent pool that baseball will have to draw from, especially for two-sport high school stars who may now choose to go to college. That remains to be seen, but it certainly will hurt teams that have figured out in recent years that it makes much more sense to spend money on amateurs as they build their teams.
A lot of drama always accompanies big contracts handed out to draftees or players from Latin America, but it has always been overblown because it pales in comparison to what mediocre free agents get each year. That's why the union was happy to agree to something that would seem bad for players, albeit players that aren't yet a member of the union.
The idea, according to baseball, is that this new system will leave the draft as a better reflection of talent instead of what a team is willing to spend to sign someone. When the next Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper comes along, though, what's to stop the Yankees or Phillies from making it clear to Scott Boras that they're more than willing to lose a draft pick or two in order to grab a special player?
Lower revenue teams are never going to be able to compete with the Yankees for CC Sabathia or other big free agents. Their best chance of acquiring such talent is by drafting it and using less money to get more years out of those players before they can hit the open market.
This CBA makes that harder which means life is easier for the Yankees, especially since the draft pool will be smaller for teams like the Rays who wind up at the back end of the draft by being winners. Life is always going to be good for the Yankees, of course, but it was a lot more reasonable to expect a new CBA would wind up making things less slanted in their favor.
What we got on Tuesday appears to be moving things in the other direction which should mean a lot more complaining while the Yankees keep winning.