Players, owners agree to tentative 5-year labor deal

10/25/2006 - MLB

DETROIT -- Following nearly a quarter century of labor wars,
baseball players and owners will have 16 years of peace.

They set aside their long history of bitter negotiations to
reach a tentative agreement on a five-year contract, the first time
the sides have achieved labor peace before their current deal

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and MLBPA Executive Director Donald Fehr were scheduled to hold a news conference at 7 p.m. at Busch Stadium on Tuesday night, at which the deal could be announced.

The agreement was struck during bargaining in New York on Friday
night and Saturday, and is subject to the sides putting the deal in
writing, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told The
Associated Press on Sunday. The person spoke on condition of
anonymity because the agreement had not been finalized.

The current deal, set to expire Dec. 19, was agreed to on Aug.
30, 2002, just hours before players were set to strike. That
contract was the first since 1970 achieved without a work stoppage,
and this marks the first time the sides reached agreement before
the expiration of the previous contract.

"Baseball is at an all-time high point right now," Detroit
left fielder Craig Monroe said before Game 2 of the World Series.
"You've got low-market teams doing well and different teams
winning every year. Getting this done couldn't have come at a
better time."

Lawyers were working on drafting language for the new deal
Sunday, and hoped to put the finishing touches on it Monday or
Tuesday. Once that happened, commissioner Bud Selig would announce
it in St. Louis at the World Series.

"You've got a city like Detroit, you've got a city like St.
Louis enjoying this, and it would be neat to get something
finalized because it's good for the game," Chicago White Sox
designated hitter Jim Thome said.

Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, and union head
Donald Fehr declined comment.

While baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the new
deal guarantees labor peace through the 2011 season.

"Everybody's pretty happy with the industry. In baseball,
everybody's making out pretty well," Cardinals reliever Jason
Isringhausen said.

Since baseball's first labor contract in 1968, there have been
strikes in 1972, 1980, 1981, 1985 and 1994-95, and management
lockouts in 1973, 1976 and 1990. The last strike lasted 7{ months
and wiped out the World Series for the first time in 90 years, and
it took years for many teams to rebuild attendance.

Most of the key provisions of the current contract will be
continued with minor modifications, such as revenue sharing and the
luxury tax. With the luxury tax set to expire on Dec. 19, there was
pressure on management to make a deal to ensure that the 2007
season would be played with the tax in place.

"I think we're all for certainty and not going through a winter
of wondering what's going to be going on," Cardinals manager Tony
La Russa said. "I applaud the powers with the union and the MLB.
Helps us go about our business."

Following the last work stoppage, the sides reached a landmark
labor agreement in 1997 that increased revenue sharing, and their
2002 deal boosted the amount of money large-market teams give to
their competitors.

Record economic success helped produce an agreement with no
public rancor. Commissioner Bud Selig said last week that he
estimated the sport will produce $5.2 billion in revenue this year,
up from about $3.6 billion in 2001.

Major league teams drew a record 76 million fans this year.

"With the amount of fans coming out with their support,"
Detroit center fielder Curtis Granderson said, "a strike would've
been devastating."

Granderson was 13 when players struck in 1994, and he vividly
recalls the aftermath.

"Nobody really talked about baseball too much," he said.

Selig credited the changes in the 2002 agreement with making
more teams competitive.

"I had dreams of things getting better but, no, in many ways
this has exceeded my fondest expectations," he said last Tuesday
night in St. Louis. "This sport has more parity than ever. We have
more parity than any other sport."

An agreement had been anticipated by officials on both sides in
recent days.

"This is a setting of success. It's a platform, a stage that's
been built through very difficult times," agent Scott Boras said
Sunday. "To do anything to alter that success would be something
that wouldn't be in the best interests of the game."

The huge influx of money smoothed negotiations. The average
player salary was $1.1 million in 1995, the first season after the
1994-95 strike. It rose to just under $2.3 million in 2002 and will
be about $2.7 million this year. The average likely will top $3
million next year or in 2008.

"The force of the revenue streams basically put the collective
bargaining process into a different framework than it's been in the
past," Boras said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.