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Baseball labor deal appears to be close

October 23, 2006|Tim Brown | Times Staff Writer

DETROIT — Major League Baseball and its players' union appear close to reaching agreement on a new contract that would extend labor peace through 2011.

Several media outlets reported a "tentative" agreement, and that only the writing of a contract that would slightly alter revenue- and luxury-tax elements and not touch the standing drug agreement was left undone.

However, Rob Manfred, MLB executive vice president for labor negotiations, said Sunday night that, "Those reports are premature. We're still working on the deal."

In recent weeks, Commissioner Bud Selig has seemed optimistic that the negotiations, in the past contentious and often resulting in work stoppages, would result in an agreement long before the December expiration date of the existing contract. Many officials in baseball are predicting an announcement any day.

"No news is good news," Selig said last week during the National League Championship Series. "Thank you for asking."

Indeed, there has been no public posturing or sniping during these talks, which Selig said reflected the health of the sport.

Although the small-market franchises have complained about being massively outspent by large-market teams, and large-market teams have wondered how their revenue-sharing dollars were being spent, the sport has set attendance records in three consecutive seasons. Selig estimated baseball made about $5.2 billion in total revenue this year.

"I'm excited for it," Tigers outfielder Craig Monroe said. "I'm glad they got it together. Keep this game rolling, because it's America's pastime."

Labor relations reached their nadir with the 1994 strike, which lasted nearly eight months and forced Selig to cancel the World Series.

The contract could be the last under Selig, 72, whose contract expires after the 2009 season. Union chief Don Fehr also is said to be considering stepping down in the coming seasons. Those close to the union believe Michael Wiener, general counsel for the MLBPA, could succeed him.

tim.brown@latimes.com

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