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Selig, general managers discuss labor issues

Selig, general managers discuss labor issues

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Commissioner Bud Selig was bullish on Wednesday after another two-hour session with the general managers, his third of the year.

Selig has asked the GMs for their input in what will lead to next year's collective bargaining process with the Players Association. The GMs also have been invited to sit in on Thursday's quarterly joint owners meeting.

The current Basic Agreement expires on Dec. 11, 2011, and negotiations with the union will begin in earnest next year.

"We had a good day today, a very constructive day," said Selig, after emerging from a meeting with his Executive Council. "The general managers have worked very hard and very skillfully and they gave me a report about what they had done. A lot of it dealt with labor issues. As you know, many things have to be collectively bargained.

"I'm glad to have them here. I told them that. They dealt with some very tough issues and they were good."

Baseball last had a work stoppage when the players went on strike in 1994, wiping out the end of that season, that postseason and pushing back the start of the 1995 season. In 2002, the two sides went down to the wire to negotiate a contract that was hammered out over the final night with a pending strike deadline looming. But in 2006, the current deal was essentially done in quiet behind the scenes without any public acrimony.

With the retirement of Don Fehr and Gene Orza and the election last year of Michael Weiner, who replaced Fehr as executive director, MLB will be dealing with a new cast at the union.

Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president of labor relations and human resources, will continue to be the chief negotiator for the owners just as he has been on the '02 and '06 deals.

Manfred said on Tuesday that he didn't expect any problems working now with Weiner, a long-time lawyer for the union, who has had a calming influence over the process.

"The way I look at it is that I've done a lot business with Michael over the years," Manfred said. "I don't expect a huge change. It's not like I'm dealing with someone who's unfamiliar."

This time, as well, there do not seem to be any hot-button issues to keep the sides from again reaching a peaceful agreement.

"We haven't really even started yet," Selig said. "That's what I told a lot of our committees today: 'Let's not forecast about that because we're just starting now to work on it.' One of the things I'm very proud of, though, is the 16 years of labor peace and I hope we can extend that."

The GM meetings the last two days have dealt wholly with labor issues, such as possible changes in both the First-Year Player Draft and the playoff format, issues which must be collectively bargained with the union. Though the GMs didn't want to get into a discussion of content, the feeling was that there was good verbal flow of give-and-take in the room, and that the GMs genuinely appreciate being asked by Selig for their input.

"I'm absolutely looking for as much of that input this time as I possibly can," Selig said. "Look, we have a lot of issues -- whether it's collective bargaining or anything else. And I like having them here. I think it's good."

The next step regarding the postseason format, evidently, is a meeting of Selig's 14-man special committee studying changes in the game. The group is scheduled to gather again on Dec. 7 when MLB officials return to Orlando for the Winter Meetings on Dec. 6-9.

To be determined is whether to expand to two Wild Card teams in each league and have them meet for either a play-in game or a best-of-three first-round series. Then the major issue is how to logistically handle another postseason round in the schedule.

Three members of that committee -- Frank Robinson of MLB, Andy MacPhail of the Orioles, and John Schuerholz of the Braves -- were in the room for the meeting on Wednesday.

When asked specifically about expanding the postseason, Selig demurred.

"We're not in any stage yet to discuss these things," he said, adding that he might have more to say about the issue when he speaks to the media after the meeting on Thursday.

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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