MLB sides sign 5-year labor contract

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MLB sides sign 5-year labor contract

NEW YORK -- Baseball players and owners signed an agreement for a new labor contract Tuesday, a deal that makes baseball the first North American professional league to start blood testing on human growth hormone and expands the playoffs to 10 teams by 2013.

The five-year deal collective bargaining agreement announced Tuesday, makes changes owners hope will increase competitive balance by pressuring large-market teams to rein in spending on amateur draft picks and international signings.

An initial positive test for HGH would result in a 50-game suspension, the same as a first positive urine test for a performance-enhancing substance.

"This was very important to me," Selig said. "This really is in everyone's best interest."

Random testing for HGH will take place during spring training and the offseason, but there is no agreement yet on random testing in-season. There can be testing at any time for cause.

"We've consulted with a lot of scientists on this, and we know there's a difference of opinion among scientists we've consulted," Weiner said. "We are sufficiently comfortable with the science to go ahead with testing, but we have preserved the right if there is a positive test for there to be a challenge - if that's appropriate - to the science at that point in time."

The sides will explore in-season testing, but the union wants to make sure it's done in a way that doesn't interfere with players' health and safety.

"The players want to get out and be leaders on this issue, and they want there to be a level playing field," Weiner said. "The realities, though, are that baseball players play virtually every single day from Feb. 20 through October. And that's unlike any other athlete - professional or amateur - who's subject to drug testing. We want to make sure that we're doing everything we can on the HGH issue, but that it be consistent with not interfering with competition and not interfering with players health and safety under those circumstances."

At a time when the NBA season is threatened by a lockout and NFL preseason was disrupted by labor strife, this deal ensures baseball will have 21 consecutive years of labor peace since the end of the 1994-95 strike.

"Nobody back in the '70s, '80s and early '90s, 1994, would ever believe that we would have 21 years of labor peace," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said.

The deal, which still must be ratified by the players and owners, is the first contract since Michael Weiner replaced Donald Fehr as union leader last year.

As for the playoffs, there will be an additional two teams starting in 2012 or 2013 that will give baseball 10 of 30 clubs in the postseason. In the NFL, 12 of 32 teams make the playoffs. In the NBA and NHL, 16 of 30 advance.

The two wild cards in each league - the non-first place teams with the best records - will meet in a one-game playoff, and the winners will move on to the division series.

This agreement calls for the Houston Astros to switch from the NL Central to the AL West in 2013, leaving each league with three five-team divisions. It's baseball's first realignment since the Milwaukee Brewers went to the NL after the 1997 season.

On the economics, the threshold for the luxury tax on payrolls will be left at 178 million in each of the next two seasons, putting pressure on high-spending teams such as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies not to raise their spending even more. The threshold rises to 189 million for 2014-16.

The minimum salary reaches the 500,000 mark in 2014, and then there will be cost-of-living increases in both of the following two years. There will also be a new "competitive balance lottery" that gives small-market teams extra selections in the amateur draft.

Major league free agent compensation will be completely revised in 2013, with a team having to offer its former players who became free agents the average of the top 125 contracts - currently about 12 million - to receive draft-pick compensation if a player signs with a new team. It eliminates the statistical formula that had been in place since the 1981 strike settlement.

In addition, the portion of players with 2-3 years of major league service who are eligible for salary arbitration will rise from 17 percent to 22 percent starting in 2013.

And there a new market disqualification test, preventing teams from large markets from receiving revenue-sharing proceeds - and lowering the amount the big teams pay as long as they stay under the payroll threshold.

Owners achieved their goal of reining in spending on amateur players coming to the major leagues. For high school and college players taken in the June amateur draft, there will be five bands of penalties, starting with a 75 percent tax on the amount 0-5 percent over a specified threshold for each team next year, based on its selection spot. For teams going 5-10 percent over, the tax will rise to 100 percent and they will lose their next first-round draft pick. If a team goes more than 15 percent over, it could lose its following two first-round draft picks.

For players taken in the 11th round and beyond, teams may give them signing bonuses up to 100,000 without it counting against the new threshold.

For international amateur signings from nations such as the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, a luxury tax will begin with the July 2012-June 2013 signing season.

Hahn hit with tough luck, A's lose 2017 spring training opener

Hahn hit with tough luck, A's lose 2017 spring training opener

BOX SCORE

At Mesa, Arizona, Matt Szczur keyed a three-run second inning for the World Series champions and Charcer Burks hit a solo homer in front of 14,929 fans.

Burks also had a diving catch in left field with two on and one out in the eighth inning.

Matt Joyce hit a solo home run in his first game with Oakland and Matt Chapman tied it 3-all with a two-run drive in the fourth. Rajai Davis, who hit a tying home run off Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning of last year's World Series Game 7, opened the game for the Athletics with a walk, then stole second and third but was stranded when Stephen Vogt flied out.

A's starter Jesse Hahn allowed three runs, all in the second, including a two-run single by Szczur that deflected off the pitcher's glove.

Heyward surprised Cubs fans didn’t boo A’s OF Davis more

Heyward surprised Cubs fans didn’t boo A’s OF Davis more

MESA, Ariz. – The Cactus League crowds are different than the ones packed into Wrigley Field. It was only a meaningless split-squad game on a Saturday afternoon in the Arizona sunshine. Finally winning the World Series must have somewhat dulled the edge.

But Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward still thought Rajai Davis would hear it from the sellout crowd of 14,929 at Sloan Park, the what-could-have-been anxiety bubbling up when seeing the Oakland A's leadoff guy who nearly changed the course of baseball history.

"I was surprised he didn't get booed more, but that's just how our fans are," Heyward said. "They're fun like that. They have fun with the game. They acknowledge it. That's pretty cool for Cubs fans to boo you. If anybody boos you from last year, that's kind of an honor, I would say. To be on that side of things, it means you did something great."

As Alfonso Soriano liked to say, they don't boo nobodies. With one big swing, Davis almost unleashed a miserable winter for the Cubs and ended the Cleveland Indians' 68-year drought.

Manager Joe Maddon kept pushing closer Aroldis Chapman, who fired 97 pitches in Games 5, 6, and 7 combined. Davis timed seven straight fastballs in the eighth inning – the last one at 97.1 mph – and drove a Game 7-tying two-run homer just inside the foul pole and onto the left-field patio. In a now-famous rain-delay speech, Heyward gathered his teammates in a Progressive Field weight room as the Cubs regained their composure.

"They booed him, but only the first at-bat," Heyward said. "The second at-bat and the third, I was like: ‘Eh, they kind of just let him off the hook.' They let him be."

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