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.

• • •

Detroit paid a heavy price to acquire Joakim Soria in a trade with Texas, then lost the reliever to an oblique strain for as much as a month. The Tigers responded by signing A’s castoff Jim Johnson in hopes he can recapture the form that saved 101 games in two years in Baltimore. Then things got worse:

There is no easy answer for starter Anibal Sanchez’s pectoral injury, which will keep him off a mound for up to four weeks.

• • •

The White Sox are not in the postseason race, but their fortunes took a positive turn when outfielder Avisail Garcia, believed lost for the season when he needed shoulder surgery in April, began a rehab assignment. Garcia’s return gives Chicago a chance to evaluate their offense heading into the offseason.

Double-digit K’s in one game notably elusive for Twins pitchers

Entering Saturday, there had been 161 instances this year of a pitcher striking out 10 or more batters in a game. None are by a Twins pitcher, the only team without one. That’s not a big surprise, considering there were 187 such games last year — and again, none by a Twin. In fact, no Twins pitcher has struck out 10 batters since Francisco Liriano on July 18, 2012, his next-to-last start before being traded. Texas’ Yu Darvish alone has 21 games of 10 or more strikeouts since the Twins’ last such performance. Even Liriano has accomplished the feat four more times since leaving the Twins. Here’s how many times each team has had a 10-strikeout performance since July 18, 2012:

Tigers 38

Rays 30

Indians 26

Rangers 26

Nationals 20

Mets 20

Phillies 20

White Sox 20

Mariners 18

Dodgers 18

Giants 16

Braves 16

Reds 16

Yankees 15

Red Sox 15

Cardinals 14

Angels 12

Pirates 12

Cubs 11

Blue Jays 9

D’backs 9

Marlins 9

Padres 7

Royals 6

Athletics 6

Astros 5

Brewers 5

Rockies 4

Orioles 3

Twins 0

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Baltimore 2 FINAL
Detroit 15
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Northeastern 1 FINAL
Boston 2
Miami-Fla 1 FINAL
Miami 7
Pittsburgh 8 FINAL
Toronto 7
San Francisco 4 Bottom 9th Inning
Oakland 9
Cleveland 0 FINAL
Cincinnati 10
Boston College 0 FINAL
Boston 1
Arizona State 0 Top 5th Inning
Arizona 0
Boston 6:00 PM
Cleveland
LA Lakers 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Sacramento 6:00 PM
New York
Houston 6:30 PM
Atlanta
Utah 7:00 PM
Memphis
Washington 7:00 PM
Chicago
Milwaukee 8:00 PM
Denver
Nashville 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Calgary 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Washington 6:00 PM
Columbus
Buffalo 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Toronto 6:30 PM
Florida
Ottawa 7:00 PM
Minnesota
NY Islanders 7:30 PM
Dallas
Anaheim 8:00 PM
Arizona
Los Angeles 8:30 PM
Edmonton
San Jose 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Ole Miss 6:00 PM
Alabama
Eastern Mich 6:00 PM
Ball State
Kent State 6:00 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Georgetown 6:00 PM
Butler
Toledo 6:00 PM
Central Mich
Rhode Island 6:00 PM
Dayton
Youngstown St 6:00 PM
Detroit
North Carolina 6:00 PM
Georgia Tech
Loyola-Maryland 6:00 PM
Holy Cross
Iowa 6:00 PM
Indiana
Akron 6:00 PM
Miami-Ohio
Army 6:00 PM
Navy
Maryland 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Kennesaw St 6:00 PM
USC Upstate
Jacksonville 6:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
Northern Ky
Stetson 6:30 PM
North Florida
Wright State 7:00 PM
Ill-Chicago
Western Mich 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
Nebraska Omaha 7:00 PM
North Dakota
Houston Baptist 7:00 PM
Abilene Christian
NC State 8:00 PM
Clemson
Texas A&M 8:00 PM
Florida
Kentucky 8:00 PM
Georgia
West Virginia 8:00 PM
Kansas
Auburn 8:00 PM
Missouri
Michigan 8:00 PM
Northwestern
Villanova 8:15 PM
Creighton
Longwood 55 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 63
Charleston Southern 39 FINAL
Presbyterian 47
Coastal Carolina 14 1st Half 11:02
UNC-Asheville 12
NJIT 6:00 PM
UMass Lowell
West Virginia 7:00 PM
Kansas State
TCU 7:00 PM
Texas
Fresno State 8:00 PM
Air Force
San Jose St 8:00 PM
Boise State
Nevada 8:00 PM
Colorado State
UNLV 8:00 PM
San Diego State
Wyoming 8:00 PM
Utah State
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