Major League Baseball's 30 owners unanimously approved the new Basic Agreement during a conference call on Friday morning. The new deal with the MLB Players Association extends labor peace for another five years, and will give the sport, once torn by the rancor generated by these discussions, 16 seasons uninterrupted by work stoppages by the time the new agreement expires on Dec. 11, 2011. "Unanimous approval by the clubs is yet another indicator of the peace and prosperity that exists in the industry," Commissioner Bud Selig said on Friday. "This agreement gives us a great opportunity to continue to grow the game in all ways and expand on the golden age of the sport."
Approval by the players is still pending, but that's considered to be a formality. The agreement was signed on Oct. 23 after a summer of quiet negotiations and announced the next day, just prior to Game 3 of a World Series the Cardinals wound up winning over the Tigers in five games. The Cardinals are the seventh different team to win the World Series since the Yankees defeated the Mets in 2000, punctuating the point that baseball has reached a level of parity strived for by officials of the sport. The new deal includes adjusted formulas for revenue sharing, a higher threshold for the competitive-balance tax, a revamped draft for amateur players, changes in draft-pick compensation for free agents and the elimination of long-standing deadline dates for Major League free agents, giving teams added flexibility in re-signing their players. It also extends the current drug policy from the end of the 2008 season to the length of the new agreement. Unlike the 2002 talks, which went right to the edge of an Aug. 30 strike deadline called by the players, this deal was done almost two months before the previous four-year Basic Agreement was set to expire on Dec. 19. But great progress was made four years ago when 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 the 1994 postseason and delayed the opening of the following season. Since then, the two sides had twice renegotiated the terms and the penalties of the drug policy, plus had gone into partnership to stage the first World Baseball Classic, which was won by Japan earlier this year. This season alone, MLB regular-season games drew 76.2 million fans, gross revenues leaped to $5.2 billion and the average player salary grew to $2.8 million -- all of them records.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.