We need more of it. If our richer teams give some percentage of their revenues to our poorer teams -- not from all of their revenues, mind you, just a percentage from the local revenues -- teams will be on more of an equal financial footing and competition, theoretically, will improve. It helps everyone.
We're all for improving the ability of the small-revenue teams to pay. But not if it's going to hinder the ability of the big-revenue teams to shell out mega-deals to mega-stars. And we don't want to reward poorly managed teams by handing them revenue-sharing checks.
This may be the biggest sticking point in the negotiations. At last look, owners wanted to up the revenue shared from $186 million to $253 million, with each team basically kicking in half of its local revenues. Players countered with a plan that would up the percentage from its current 20 percent to about 22.5 percent. The two sides differ on what formula should be used to distribute the money, too. Owners want the money to be evenly divided among all the teams. Players want something that gets more money to the more needy teams.
We're willing to tax teams that exceed a set amount on player payroll. We'll do it for a couple of reasons. One, to try to prop up the poorer teams (that's where the taxes will go). Two, maybe a tax will discourage the richer teams from going overboard on salaries.
We agreed to this last time and it didn't really work. There's no need for it. We believe a decent revenue sharing plan should take care of any problems. We're concerned with any plan that puts a limit or penalty on how much a team can spend on its players.
This one will be a stickler, too. The last luxury tax plan -- this is also called a competitive balance tax -- didn't slow salaries at all. The current proposal calls for a 50 percent tax on each dollar over $98 million spent on player payroll. The money would go into a discretionary fund run by the commissioner's office.
Baseball has to eliminate at least two teams, and maybe more, as a means of weeding out the financially weaker teams. That will give a bigger slice of the economic pie to those who remain. And it will help the league in a couple of ways. First, because of the improved economics, the remaining teams will be better able to compete for talent and the competitive imbalance will improve. Second, fewer teams mean more concentrated talent, which improves the game as well.
The owners can't simply eliminate teams without our OK. It's not that we're so adamantly against contraction. Some of us say it's a negotiable point. Many of us agree that the talent level has thinned too much. But an elimination of teams would mean a loss of a lot of our jobs. That has to be negotiated.
Arbitrator Shyam Das will decide before July 15 whether owners can unilaterally impose contraction. If Das rules in favor of the owners, contraction is alive and kicking and the players can't do much about it. If he rules in favor of the players, contraction could be dead, at least for now. Or, if the owners want to press on, it could be used as a huge bargaining chip for the players.
Steroid use is a big concern. It undermines the credibility of the game. More than that, it could be costing us a boatload of money. A lot of these players using steroids may end up on the disabled list with all sorts of pulls and strains and side effects we still don't know about. And we still have to pay them! Granted, home runs and increased scoring sell. But it's definitely not good for us, or America's pastime, to be viewed as a haven for pumped-up athletes on illegal performance-enhancing drugs. We are for banning steroids and other drugs and for some sort of testing to make sure the ban is effective.
We've fought off any attempt at drug testing in the past with the argument that it's an invasion of privacy. But we may be willing to talk this time around. Steroid use may have helped many of us get stronger, hit more home runs and get bigger contracts, but it has hurt those of us unwilling to use the illegal drugs. And many of us believe the continued use of steroids endangers the health of our peers. A return to a cleaner, safer game won't be easy. But many of us are willing to listen to ideas on how we might go about doing it.
Some kind of compromise is possible, but not without plenty of teeth gnashing. There seems to be enough vocal leadership in the union for some kind of testing program, but there are plenty of problems both in detecting steroids and in figuring out what to do with players once they are found to be using. It's such a complicated task, it seems unlikely the two sides can agree on any comprehensive plan that will immediately have any major impact.
We'd like to tweak the system so that we can cut a player if, within five days of exchanging salary figures, we so desire. (Right now, once figures are exchanged, the player is considered signed to a contract.) We'd also like to eliminate a level of eligibility, known as "Super-Two" and offer a minimum contract to those players in that class instead.
We absolutely oppose the idea of dumping a player once the exchange of figures has taken place. And losing the "Super-Two" level of arbitration is a step backward. Frankly, the whole arbitration process is demeaning and often fruitless -- but it's better than just taking what the owners offer and waiting six years until you can be a free agent.
The vast majority of players who file for arbitration -- 87 percent from 1990-2001 -- settle on a contract before going in front of the arbitrator. Those who don't: Through the 2001 season, the owners had won 250 cases, the players 191. Still, this issue is important to the union, and the two main issues -- the owners' desire to take away the "Super-Two" classification and to be able to dump a player after the arbitration process has started -- are big sticking points.
Fighting cannot be tolerated. Players who engage in fighting should be fined and suspended without pay. This isn't hockey, for heaven's sake. Fine 'em, suspend 'em, fine those who come to their aid and streamline any appeals process.
Fining's fine, as long as it's not out of hand. And a suspension, same thing. But we absolutely will fight the notion that we don't get paid while we're suspended.
This is one of those proposals that is out there for the compromises, so one side can say, "Hey, we gave you that," when they're looking for a little leeway on another point of negotiation. Don't expect the suspensions without pay to get passed without a lot of arguing. But owners will get something out of this so they can say they're cracking down on violence in their sport.
We're more than willing to set a minimum payroll to ensure that every team at least has a base for competing. We'd like a maximum payroll, too -- a salary cap -- but we know that's not happening.
Nope. Don't want it. To set a minimum payroll is anathema to everything we believe. The free market should set how low a payroll can be. Or, as everyone always points out, how high it can go.
It doesn't seem that a minimum payroll is necessary, and it's certainly not welcome by the players, especially if a revenue sharing plan or luxury tax, or some combination, is passed. That'll help ensure the small-revenue teams have a hefty enough payroll, according to the union. Still, a figure for a minimum payroll -- $45 million, to be exact -- is on the table. Maybe negotiable, maybe not.
With the increasing globalization of the game, we want to include players from Latin America, Asia, Australia and elsewhere in a 40-round amateur draft that includes "domestic" players. That way the talent pool is widened and, at the same time, we can get a handle on more players from more places so that there is a fair and equitable division of talent. We also want to be able to trade draft picks.
We can talk. We've countered with a 16-round draft, with eight rounds for international players and eight for American players. The rest would become free to sign with any team.
There will be some tweaks and compromises. The current draft is 50 rounds and covers only "domestic" players, generally meaning players from the U.S. and Canada, players who attend an American school or players who come from a U.S. territory (mainly Puerto Rico). Getting a system in place to deal with international players is vital to the long-term growth and future of the sport -- and that means it's important to both owners and players.
This is another way to address the competitive imbalance many of us see in baseball today. Generally speaking, the eight teams with the worst records will be able to take minor league players from the eight playoff teams in a draft each December. Because it's usually the low-revenue teams that don't make the playoffs, this will effectively enable low-revenue teams to draft players from high-revenue teams.
We don't, as a rule, like plans in which players are treated as so much coinage. But this could be workable. We'll want to get a firm hold of this and make sure any plan where players are drafted and forced to change teams is fair to everyone.
There are wrinkles to be considered. The owners propose that any team that finishes in the top half of local revenues but finishes in the bottom eight of the league would be ineligible to draft. On the flip side, a small-revenue team (bottom half of local revenues) that somehow makes the playoffs can't have its players picked off. A compromise can be reached, it seems.
We want a way to verify offers made to free agents. This is the only way we can get a true handle on what the market is so we won't overspend on free agents. Our plan: Have an independent party verify offers.
No, no, no. This used to be called collusion. It's just a way of conspiring to keep salaries down. What if you have two employers fighting over a player? It's not in the player's best interest that each knows what the other is offering.
A fight, a big one, lies ahead if the owners are serious in trying to push this.