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.

hide

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,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

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But as the digital age began to make live sporting events — even ones criticized as slow, dull and out-of-date — almost priceless to broadcasters, Selig changed the model for small-market survival.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.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 2 FINAL
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 9
Washington 0 FINAL
Miami 8
Boston 4 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Detroit 2 FINAL
Houston 3
Toronto - WP: C. Hynes 9 FINAL
Boston - LP: D. Hinojosa 7
Tampa Bay - WP: J. Norberto 3 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: C. Whitley 0
St. Louis 5 FINAL
NY Mets 4
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
Kansas City 4
LA Angels 1 FINAL
Oakland 4
San Diego 8 FINAL
Chicago WSox 2
Chicago WSox 12 FINAL
Seattle 4
Cleveland 2 FINAL
San Francisco 5
Milwaukee 7 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 11
Arizona 3 FINAL
Cincinnati 0
Texas 4 FINAL
Colorado 10
Pittsburgh 3 FINAL
Baltimore 3
Detroit 78 FINAL
Charlotte 102
Philadelphia 93 FINAL
Washington 106
San Antonio 103 FINAL
Orlando 91
Indiana 87 FINAL
Boston 100
Brooklyn 100 FINAL
New York 98
Chicago 91 FINAL
Milwaukee 95
Dallas 135 FINAL
Oklahoma City 131
Sacramento 111 FINAL
Houston 115
Toronto 113 FINAL
Minnesota 99
Denver 84 FINAL
Utah 98
LA Clippers 126 FINAL
Portland 122
New Orleans 113 FINAL
LA Lakers 92
Toronto 3 FINAL
Buffalo 4
Philadelphia 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Edmonton 1 FINAL
Anaheim 5
Colorado 1 FINAL
San Jose 5
Loyola-Chicago 63 FINAL
ULM 62
UCLA 69 FINAL
Michigan 65
Temple 58 FINAL
West Virginia 66
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: What are you following most closely right now?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close