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Baseball is back.
OK not officially — owners will vote for ratification at 5 p.m. CT — but Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association reached an agreement for a new collective bargaining agreement on the 99th day of the lockout.
The union reps approved the terms by a vote of 26-12. Assuming owners hold up their end of the bargain (at your peril), Rob Manfred will hold a press conference, and free agency will resume.
(UPDATE: The owners unanimously approved the agreement. Baseball is indeed back.)
As games started being removed from the calendar, I thought that an agreement would be struck quickly, or it would take months. The players wouldn’t be able to gain leverage until the league missed enough games to start losing TV money, so anything in between would be senseless damage, as opposed to something painfully accomplished.
Now you’ll see a “Back to the Future” type restoration, where players’ pictures will return to team websites, and the two weeks of missing games will return to the calendar.
The shape of the season will be slightly different — Opening Day is reportedly set for April 7 for most teams — but the schedule will comprise 162 games, with an appropriate amount of (nine-inning) doubleheaders to make up the gap.
What else is new?
No 2021 Rule 5 draft: The league decided it wasn’t worth it this year, given all the transactional activity that’s already going to be taking place over the next four weeks. Carlos Pérez won’t be going anywhere.
League minimum increase: The minimal salary now starts at $700,000, and will grow to $780,000 over the course of the five years.
Bonus pool: Pre-arbitration players can now receive performance-based bonuses from a $50 million pool.
Uniform advertisements: Teams can now sell jersey patches and batting helmet decals to the highest bidder. That’s unfortunate, but I suppose the Nike swoosh on the shoulder already ruined the clean look of the uniform.
Faster rule changes: MLB can now implement rule changes in 45 days starting in 2023. Look for a pitch clock, shift ban and larger bases to start, although they’re not necessarily a given.
There’s more, but we may as well wait for the whole thing to be ratified so we can discuss the specifics and speculate on potential ramifications with more accuracy. In the meantime, wait a couple hours for ratification, and then hold onto your butts, for Major League Baseball has four weeks to make up for three months of activity.