Union ratifies labor agreement

Union ratifies labor agreement

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Major League Baseball Players Association approved the new Basic Agreement during its annual executive board meeting that was held in Bonita Springs, Fla., this week, said Don Fehr, the union's longtime executive director.

The ratification comes a little more than a month since the 30 owners unanimously approved the five-year contract during a conference call
on Nov. 3.

The new deal will give the sport, once torn by the rancor generated by these labor discussions, 16 seasons uninterrupted by work stoppages by the time the agreement expires on Dec. 11, 2011.

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 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 last 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, and had also 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, while gross revenues leapt to $5.2 billion and the average player salary grew to $2.8 million -- each marking a new record.

Also at the union's annual meeting, which was staged concurrently with the Winter Meetings, Tony Clark and Mark Loretta were re-elected as association player representatives with Craig Counsell and Ray King back as their alternates. Each will serve a term of two years.

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.