DUNEDIN — With the expiration of the basic agreement between baseball and its players at the end of the 2011 season, players association executive director Michael Weiner said Monday he expects serious bargaining to begin in April.
“We’ve had some preliminary meetings last week and I expect there will be one or two formal bargaining meetings in spring training,” said Weiner. “We’ll begin in earnest, though, when the season begins.”
Weiner was in Dunedin to brief the Blue Jay players as he makes his annual rounds of the spring-training camps. He was reluctant to characterize the tone of bargaining in advance but did express some optimism.
“The signs are a little bit better and I think that’s because of the history,” he said.
“There is a history to collective bargaining. The experience everybody had, both on the player side and the management side, particularly in 1994-95-96 and 92-93 if you want to throw those in, people haven’t forgotten. That’s on everybody’s minds when we approach the table now.”
The lockout of 1994 when management was pushing for a salary cap, forced cancellation of the World Series and precipitated a major fan backlash. It’s safe to say nobody on either side wants a replay of that period, especially with revenues at record levels. In the intervening years, baseball has twice reached contract agreements without disruption.
“It’s hard to make predictions,” cautioned Weiner. “I read stories last week with rumours or rumblings of contraction in baseball. That would change the tenor of bargaining if that were out there.
“I expect we’ll be bargaining about the reserve system, the arbitration and free agency rules, pensions, benefits, the draft, the playing schedule, postseason structure, a whole bunch of issues.
“I don’t expect salary cap to be on the table.”