MLB Insider: New commissioner offers best hope of extending labor peace streak

  • Updated: August 16, 2014 - 6:59 PM

The commissioner-elect still faces many challenges, like salary cap rumblings.

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Rob Manfred, the commissioner-elect of Major League Baseball, was the chief architect of the sport’s revenue-sharing plan, which has helped to enrich players and small-market teams.

Photo: Steve Ruark • Associated Press,

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Not a single major leaguer in today’s game was in the major leagues in 1994, when a strike ruined a season and canceled a World Series. Every player on the field this season has known nothing but labor peace, nothing but an economic system that helped make players rich and owners richer.

And that’s why the election of Rob Manfred this week was good news for baseball fans.

For an entire generation of fans, like this entire generation of players, the nonstop rancor of the 1970s, 80s and first half of the 90s was disheartening and exhausting. Eight work stoppages, some minor but some lengthy and disastrous, kept negotiators in the news as much as pitchers and hitters. The race to the wire meant a negotiating deadline as often as a pennant race.

The nonstop bickering has largely been ended, drowned under an ocean of money that now flows into the game, more than $9 billion last year. It’s difficult for owners to threaten the health of their game when their franchises keep doubling in value, for players to consider a unified shutdown when their average union member is a multimillionaire in his 20s.

But good times don’t last forever, and even now, some owners harbor a desire to bring the players to heel, to erect a salary cap like those that artificially limit paychecks in the NBA, NFL and NHL. Witness the stubborn opposition to Manfred’s election, which required a half-dozen votes to ratify; a clique of big-market owners exists with designs on damming up the river of cash that flows to today’s athletes.

Commissioner Bud Selig was once one of them; he presided over the 1994 slugfest that devastated his sport, believing that the only way franchises like his Milwaukee Brewers, which he owned at the time, could compete was through salary limits. The players held firm in their opposition, even at the price of half a season of games (and paychecks), and the owners lost.

But as the digital age began to make live sporting events — even ones criticized as slow, dull and out-of-date — almost priceless to broadcasters, Selig changed the model for small-market survival. Revenue sharing quietly became one of Selig’s biggest triumphs, forcing big-market franchises to help sustain the teams without such deep pools of fans. The program has been expanded, and while not as extensive as the NFL’s socialism, it’s keeping well-run franchises competitive. Along the way, the players were convinced to allow a tax on overspending franchises, with the proceeds again being directed toward small-market underdogs.

Manfred was the architect, or at least the project manager, of much of this. His relationship with the players union is solid, and his instincts appear noncombative. The danger from the massive disparity in local broadcast rights looms as far more explosive than any financial issue from the old days of labor war. The new commissioner faces many challenges, from on-field issues to connecting with new fans. But no issue is bigger than labor peace.

Which makes Manfred’s track record, and his election, important to Twins fans. Tom Werner, part-owner of the Red Sox, was a candidate of those who want war. Manfred, let’s hope, understands the value of peace.

Central Intelligence

Injuries, and how teams react to them, might play a major role in deciding how the standings will look, and all five AL Central teams made big moves in the past week. A look at the rest of the division:

• • •

Cleveland is trying to hang in the race, even after dumping the contracts of Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera. Losing Nick Swisher (knee) and David Murphy (abdominal) didn’t help, but neither one is having a good season. The return of center fielder Michael Bourn from a hamstring injury on Friday might turn out to have far more impact.

• • •

Needing a big bat to make up for the offense lost when first baseman Eric Hosmer broke a bone in his right hand, Kansas City traded with the Twins for Josh Willingham, who will serve as designated hitter while Billy Butler plays first.

Hosmer is unlikely to return until mid-September, so Willingham’s power could be critical.

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San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 7 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 1
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Houston 85 FINAL
Miami 90
Indiana 89 FINAL
Minnesota 107
Utah 105 FINAL
Oklahoma City 91
Portland 93 FINAL
Denver 75
Phoenix 114 FINAL
LA Lakers 108
LA Clippers 107 FINAL
Golden State 125
San Jose 3 FINAL
Boston 5
NY Rangers 4 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 3
Toronto 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Detroit 1 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 2
Arizona 3 FINAL(SO)
Nashville 4
Carolina 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 3
Philadelphia 0 FINAL
Chicago 4
Vancouver 3 FINAL
Dallas 6
Florida 4 FINAL(OT)
Colorado 3
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(OT)
Calgary 1
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
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