Major League Baseball playoffs will be expanded to ten teams from 2013 after a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was signed. The continued good relations between both sides mean the league will go 21 consecutive years without a work stoppage. Commissioner Bud Selig commented: “Nobody back in the ’70s, ’80s and the early ’90s, 1994, would ever believe that we would have 21 years of labor peace.”
The new deal sees MLB become the first US professional sports league to carry out blood tests for human growth hormone – hardly surprising given the BALCO scandal of the last decade. It will only take place in Spring Training and the offseason to study whether regular season gets the same system. In addition, the new CBA lessens draft-pick compensation for free agents, enlarges salary arbitration by a few players and teams are now able to trade draft picks for the first time. Then there’s the restraint on signing bonuses for amateur players, much to the behest of Scott Boras.
“If I’ve got a great athlete, why am I going to go to baseball? I’m going to focus on the other sports,” Boras told Sports Illustrated.
Back to the HGH testing and anyone that tests positive faces a 50-game suspension and it follows the minor leagues implementing a similar plan late 2010. The extra playoff team will take part in a “second wild card” round. The one game shootout will involve the two best-placed non-first place teams with the winner advancing to the division series. Divisions will also be realigned for the first time since 1997 as the Houston Astros move from the NL Central to AL West to make six divisions of five.
MLB players will be sitting pretty after the deal knowing that they will be being paid after the festive season. The same cannot be said for the NBA’s players with shipments of coal and cardboard boxes already starting to arrive at the houses of basketball players nationwide.
To further compound this, Major League Soccer has surpassed the NBA in terms of average attendance. MLS attendances now draw an average of 17,780 in 2011, moving it into third place above the NBA (17,319). The latest labor stoppage won’t help this and may see the NBA shunted back into fifth place behind that Canadian sport played on a sheet of frozen water. TV viewing figures are another matter entirely but it does show soccer is having more of an impact.
Deron Williams won’t be worrying about the lockout and his latest performance saw him register a half-ton for his new club. Wiliams was the first to move overseas back in July when he joined Turkish club Besiktas on a report $200,000 per month salary. He has more than repaid this since signing and last night’s 105-94 victory over Gottingen. Besiktas is 6-1 with Williams on the floor and he’s more than paying back the Turkish club’s investment.