MLB owners and player reach a tentative agreement
SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:
Major League Baseball's labor dispute is over. Today, players and owners reached an agreement on a new contract which ends the second-longest work stoppage in the game's history. Spring training will get underway this weekend, and the regular season is scheduled to start on April 7.
NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins us now. Hey, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hello.
MCCAMMON: So things were looking pretty bleak. I mean, it was recently as yesterday when the baseball commissioner announced he was canceling more games. So what happened?
GOLDMAN: Well, the owners offered the players something palatable enough for both sides, and players accepted the offer. Commissioner Rob Manfred had said canceling games would be disastrous. As of yesterday, as you mentioned, he'd canceled the first four series of the regular season for each team and pushed opening day from March 31 to April 14 at the earliest.
But lo and behold, finally, there was enough compromise on a couple of contentious issues, including an international player draft, that the deal got done. And miraculously, there will be no games canceled. They'll get in a full 162-game season, with some rescheduling here and there.
MCCAMMON: OK, so tell us more about how they got there. I mean, what's actually in this deal?
GOLDMAN: Well, a few nuggets have leaked out. Reportedly, the minimum salary for players with less than three years of major league service climbs from a little over $570,000 a year to 700,000 - that's a pretty good salary - and then up to 780,000 over the life of the deal. There will be a bonus pool worth a reported $50 million for young players who haven't been in the league long enough to qualify for salary arbitration. That's where their earning rises dramatically.
These are economic gains for the players who feel as if the balance of economic power had tilted away from them in recent years, even as baseball revenues approached $11 billion a year. Players were mad about that and resolved to get more of what they say they are due this time around and to get young players better pay since teams have been relying on younger players more and more instead of higher-priced older ones.
Now, Sarah, for the owners, they wanted expanded playoffs, and they got it. There will now be 12 teams in the postseason, up from 10. And for the first time, players will wear advertising on their jerseys and batting helmets. Finally, the National League will join the American League in having a designated hitter, the hitting specialist who bats for the pitcher.
MCCAMMON: And, Tom, this lockout shut down the business of baseball for almost 100 days. What happens now?
GOLDMAN: Yeah. The floodgates open, basically. There are about 200 free agents who haven't been signed, including star players like Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros, Freddie Freeman of the World Series champion Atlanta Braves. Salary arbitration and trades will get going again, and players from all over the world now have to show up quickly in Florida and Arizona for spring training this weekend.
MCCAMMON: What about the fans? Are they happy to get those games back, or are they mad?
GOLDMAN: You know, they hated it all during this process, like they always do. And like they always do, they will undoubtedly flock to ballparks, pay their money, and come playoff time, all will be forgotten. Sarah, rule No. 1 of being a fan of pro sports - learn how to forget the ugly stuff.
MCCAMMON: Sure enough. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman, thank you.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
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