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Rob Manfred: CBA Should Be Complete By Deadline

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Thankfully, it appears there won’t be a baseball labor dispute.

Al Yellon

Baseball’s general managers are meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona this week and along with that, Commissioner Rob Manfred had a news conference Wednesday to discuss various issues surrounding baseball.

One of those issues is the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association, which expires December 1. Manfred says a new deal should be in place by that deadline:

Just three weeks before that deadline, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Wednesday indicated at the annual GM meetings that he’s optimistic a new deal with be agreed on by then. The line of communication has been open, and he’s hopeful of a positive conclusion.

“Look, I think we’re going to make a deal before the expiration of the agreement,” Manfred said. “What i think I have said is there is a couple of natural deadlines. One is the beginning of free agency, the other is the expiration date. We missed deadline one, so we are now looking at deadline two.”

There don’t seem to be too many issues separating players and owners, as both sides realize a lot of money is being made. Baseball, alone among the major sports in North America, has not had a labor stoppage in more than 20 years. This has allowed the sport to have major growth over that time. Here are a couple of issues that do need to be resolved:

One of the most contentious elements regarding the new CBA is the placement of an international draft. A more stringent tariff on teams spending past the luxury tax line is also a topic of discussion, as the current penalty is a dollar for every dollar spent over the threshold.

I’d say another issue that needs to be discussed is the qualifying offer. No one really likes it; it’s intended to give some sort of compensation to teams losing free agents. MLB has tried to address this topic in various forms going back to the 1980s (remember the White Sox getting Steve Mura as compensation for losing Tom Seaver? He pitched in only six games for them).

Other topics the general managers are discussing are pace-of-play issues. They’re considering things such as mound visits and potentially limiting relief pitching changes in some manner, though how that would be done remains to be seen. Nothing would be done about this until the winter meetings next month, when this again would be discussed. It’s possible nothing would happen at all before next season.

MLB folks floated the idea of eliminating the requirement to throw four pitches outside the strike zone for an intentional walk, instead there would simply be a signal given for the hitter to take first base. I think this is a horribly bad idea. IBB don’t take up much time — maybe 30-40 seconds or so -- and intentional walk totals have been dropping precipitously over the last few years. Here are the MLB totals over the last six seasons:

2016: 932
2015: 951
2014: 985
2013: 1018
2012: 1055
2011: 1231

The totals from 2012 through 2016 are the five lowest since MLB expanded to 30 teams in 1998, and the 2016 total is the second-lowest since the 162-game schedule went into effect for all teams in 1962.

Finally, eliminating the “four-balls-for-an-intentional-walk” rule would rob the game of scenes like this, admittedly rare, but a fun part of what makes baseball what it is.

If this does happen -- and I sure hope it doesn’t -- the final traditional IBB in baseball history would have gone to Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell in the CubsGame 7 10th-inning rally that won the World Series.

There will likely be other rule changes discussed at the Winter Meetings. What would you like to see changed — or stay the same?