Selig optimistic about CBA talks

Selig optimistic about CBA talks

Selig optimistic about CBA talks
MIAMI -- On the day before Major League Baseball kicks off its 2011 campaign, and thus the final season under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig spoke glowingly about what the game has accomplished in the past decade and sounded optimistic about its future.

While delivering the keynote address at the IMG World Congress of Sports, Selig noted the trials and tribulations of labor unrest 16 years ago -- and took pride in how far baseball has come since then.

"For decades, baseball provided a road map of how not to handle labor relations," he said. "Today, I'm very proud to stand before you with baseball in its 16th straight year of uninterrupted labor peace. In that time, I'm proud that our agreements have produced extraordinary competitive balance."

At the two-day summit -- taking place at the JW Marriott Marquis in downtown Miami -- a long list of top executives took part in public panels related to business strategies.

The 10th version took place at a time when not only baseball's CBA is expiring in Dec. 11, but amid unrest in other professional sports leagues.

MLB's negotiations are widely expected to be the most peaceful of the three, with the NFL currently in a lockout and the NBA's CBA set to expire on June 30.

"Each sport's situation is unique, with different issues and a different historical context, that shapes the relationship between the league and its players," Selig said in his speech. "I've experienced both the pain of labor unrest and the satisfaction of making an agreement that is mutually beneficial to both the players and the sport."

Selig recalled the state of baseball in 2001, when the conference was first started in New York. At that time, labor negotiations loomed and the scars from the 1994 players' strike -- "and they were scars," Selig emphasized -- were still felt.

But in Selig's mind, the tense negotiations and eventual resolution of a new CBA in 2002 served as a watershed moment, which led to a quiet five-year CBA extension in '06 and -- he hopes -- an equally peaceful one this offseason.

"There are things that we're going to want, we have a system that needs some change," Selig said in a public Q&A following his speech. "But hopefully, we'll do it the way we did it in '06 -- thoughtfully, carefully and quietly."

MLB officials and the Players Association have conducted two rounds of collective bargaining thus far.

Speaking later to a small group of reporters before touring the Marlins' new ballpark -- which is slated to open for the 2012 season and which he hadn't seen since the groundbreaking ceremony -- Selig did not comment on the possibility of expanded replay and playoff participation in upcoming seasons.

"We're certainly talking about it," he said, "and we'll look at it."

During his speech, Selig once again said baseball is in its "golden era," pointing to a stringent drug-testing program, substantial parity and ongoing labor peace he believes will continue.

"Having been on both sides of the coin," Selig said during his speech, "I'm very hopeful that we'll be able to duplicate our experience of 2006."

A good sign of that came Tuesday, when the two sides were able to quietly agree on a seven-day disabled list for players suffering concussions.

Selig also spoke highly about MLB's parity, noting nine clubs have made the last 10 World Series and 25 of 30 teams have reached the playoffs in the last decade.

Asked later about teams perennially in the bottom of the league in payroll, Selig said: "All 30 clubs can't always be perfect, but we have, as I said here today, more competitive balance than we've ever had before. It's amazing."

Regarding the unstable situations with the Mets (potential billion-dollar lawsuit) and Dodgers (uncertain ownership), Selig didn't get into specifics, citing the Rangers' recent resolution in saying both clubs should pull through.

"We'll work our way through these situations; that's all I'm going to say," he said. "We will work our way through these situations. Baseball has a great capacity to do that."

Baseball, in Selig's mind, has done a lot in the 19 years since he took over as Commissioner.

He noted the three-division format, the Wild Card, Interleague Play, two World Baseball Classics and increased testing for performance-enhancing substances.

The Commissioner went on to say baseball is "a social institution with important social responsibility," singling out programs that bring baseball to underserved communities -- like the Urban Youth Academies and Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program -- and a $500,000 donation recently made by MLB and the MLBPA to help Japan's relief efforts.

Selig also beamed about the start of MLB Network and MLB Advanced Media, which has seen its average revenues grow by nearly 40 percent each year since 2001.

"Nobody could ever believe, starting with me, that we would be creating what we created," he said about MLB.com. "More than 11 years later, MLB Advanced Media -- or BAM as it's known in baseball circles -- has proven to be a perfect marriage of the old guard, baseball and the new guard, the Internet."

Also slated to take part in the summit were MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner, MLB executive vice president of business Tim Brosnan, Marlins president David Samson and several others from around sports, including Donald Fehr (executive director of the NHLPA and the former executive director of the MLBPA), Stephen Ross (Miami Dolphins owner) and Eric Woolworth (president of business operations for the Miami Heat).

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.