Representatives for Major League Baseball and the Players Association met in Florida on Wednesday for their first formal session to discuss a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Michael Weiner, the union's executive director, said.
The current Basic Agreement expires on Dec. 11. The current five-year agreement was signed without acrimony in 2006 and negotiations are expected to be the same this time. Baseball hasn't had a work stoppage since 1994, when a strike eliminated the last six weeks of the regular season, that postseason and the start of the '95 season. No one expects that to happen again.
"I think losing the '94 postseason opened a lot of eyes," said former player and manager Joe Torre, who was named MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations on Saturday.
Weiner characterized the initial session as "productive." The owners are seeking to expand the playoffs by adding two Wild Card teams -- which would require an additional round of playoffs - as well as adding a slotting-pay system to a possibly expanded worldwide amateur draft and tweaks in revenue sharing. The union is trying to figure out how to viably compress the schedule to include another round of playoffs.
Weiner, who replaced Don Fehr two years ago and is in his first round of bargaining as head of the union, said a number of players showed up to the session. Weiner, who is on his annual tour of the Florida Spring Training camps, said there may be further talks when he visits the Arizona camps later this month.
The fact that baseball will celebrate a 20-year anniversary of labor peace in 2015, when the next agreement would be in full force, hasn't gone unnoticed. Commissioner Bud Selig has spent the past year preparing for these negotiations. He has had the general managers attend four of the past five Owners Meetings and established a 14-member committee examining on-field changes, of which Torre is a member.
Selig said last week that he isn't at the stage where he can talk about what MLB wants at the table, but he's clear on the direction.
"One of the things I'm very proud of is the 16 years of labor peace and I hope we can extend that," he said.
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.