Report: Tentative labor deal reached

Report: Tentative labor deal reached

DETROIT -- Major League Baseball and its players association are nearing a tentative agreement that will extend labor peace in the sport for another five years, but there are still matters to be resolved, a baseball source familiar with the negotiations said on Sunday night.

The Associated Press reported hours before Game 2 of the World Series pitting the Cardinals against the Tigers at Comerica Park that a new five-year Basic Agreement had been reached.

But top MLB officials wouldn't confirm that the deal had been completed, pending the final paperwork and the votes of the owners and players. No announcement is expected to come until later this week.

Tigers player representative Nate Robertson wouldn't confirm the completion of the labor pact, either.

"I pretty much won't talk a whole lot about that until anything's legit," Robertson said before the game. "Until we're knocking on the door, which I think that's where we're at, I don't really comment on a whole lot of it."

If a new Basic Agreement is in hand, it would replace the one reached in 2002, and it would come nearly two months before the Dec. 19 expiration date of the old deal, an event unprecedented in the nearly 40 years of labor relations in a sport where, for decades, those issues have been highly contentious.

Tony La Russa, when told during his pregame press conference that a new deal was forthcoming, said it was good for the game of baseball.

"I think we're all for certainty and not going through a winter of wondering what's going to be going on," the Cardinals manager said. "So I applaud the powers with the union and the MLB. It helps us go about our business."

The original report traveled like electricity through the two clubhouses, leading to an unabashed optimism about the nearly finished agreement.

"It's a big deal for everybody," said Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen, who hasn't been eligible for the postseason after hip surgery. "Not just the players, but the owners, the fans, the writers, everybody. Things are going well right now for the industry. And [the negotiations] went quietly. There wasn't a big to-do. Somebody asked me about it being so quiet, and I thought that was good. Because (last time) people were getting too loud."

The 2002 talks in New York went right to the edge of an Aug. 30 strike deadline called by the players. But four years ago, the contract was settled for the first time without a strike or lockout. There had been eight such work stoppages from 1972 to the strike that wiped out 1994 postseason and delayed the opening of the following season. Since then, there has been more than a decade without any labor glitches.

The last deal included an improved competitive balance tax, increased revenue sharing and MLB's first random testing for performance-enhancing drugs.

MLB's annual revenue has now risen to $5.2 billion this season, while the average player salary was $2.8 million a year in 2006. Both are records.

The owners and the union have also twice renegotiated the Major League's drug policy and reached a level of zero tolerance this season for the use of performance-enhancing drugs. No player on the 25-man roster of any big league club tested positive, thus none were suspended for the requisite 50 games on the first offense. That's down from 13 last year when the initial penalty was a 10-day suspension.

Only Jason Grimsley, who was inactive at the time, was suspended for 50 games after federal agents raided his Arizona house to confiscate illegally obtained human growth hormone (HGH), a substance that's banned under the current policy, but is impossible to detect in a simple urine test. The former Diamondbacks pitcher didn't return to the game. Thus, he never served his suspension and the remainder of his MLB salary was donated to charity.

Increased revenue sharing and the competitive balance tax are the last issues to be resolved.

Major League clubs previously shared 34 percent of local revenue, a figure that exceeded $300 million distributed from the richer clubs to the poorer ones this season. And only two teams over the course of the current agreement have consistently exceeded the competitive balance tax threshold, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. This year, there was no tax levied on any club that wasn't a repeat offender.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.