Weiner succeeds Fehr as union head
NEW YORK -- Get ready for more postseason baseball games -- and fewer off days.
Players would like to see the first round of playoffs expand to best-of-seven when their next labor contract starts in 2012, Michael Weiner said Wednesday in his first news conference since replacing Donald Fehr as the union head.
"There is a lot of sentiment for a seven-game division series," Weiner said. "I think a properly constructed postseason schedule could accommodate three seven-game series but still have it extend over a shorter period of time than what happened this year."
The first round has been best-of-five since it began in 1995.
Weiner hopes the length of the postseason can be shortened next year and was happy to hear commissioner Bud Selig say he will try to cut off days. Four extra days off were added in 2007 at the request of baseball's television broadcasters. As a result, the Angels and Yankees played just eight games in the first 20 days of the playoffs.
"Everybody's in agreement that the postseason schedule needs some adjustment," Weiner said. "I'm a hockey fan as well as a baseball fan, and the pace of play this postseason was more of the way you expect a hockey season to go than a baseball season to go."
Because the postseason extended into November, the offseason marketplace began later than usual. Just nine of 171 free agents have reached agreements, causing some agents to accuse owners of possible collusion.
"I'm concerned a little bit. It's been a little bit slow," Weiner said. "I think it's too early to draw any conclusions, though, with respect to how this market will play out."
Weiner was unanimously approved as executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association during the annual meeting of its executive board in Scottsdale, Ariz. The 47-year-old Harvard graduate was hired by the union as a staff lawyer in 1988 and was promoted to general counsel in 2004. He succeeds the 61-year-old Fehr, who had been in charge since December 1983 and in June announced his intention.
During bargaining in 2002 and 2006, Weiner was among the union's chief negotiators. He praised management for "a recognition that the union is a fixture in the game" but admitted some baseball owners may push for a tougher proposals in bargaining to replace the contract that expires in December 2011.
"If there are owners who misjudge or underestimate the resolve of the players this time, I think they'll be met with the same surprise that owners of the past have met with when they misjudged the resolve of the players," Weiner said.
Baseball owners have said intend to propose the amateur draft be expanded to include players from outside the United States who currently are free agents before they sign. The union is willing to agree.
"There was plenty of sentiment for saying that players from Texas should be subject to the same rules as players from the Dominican Republic," he said.
But the union will resist attempts by management to institute a slotting system of fixed salaries for draft picks.
"This union has always stood for the proposition that, you know, players should have the right to bargain individually for their compensation," he said.
Similarly, players historically have been against having payroll floors for teams. Boston Red Sox owner John Henry, concerned that some clubs aren't spending revenue sharing money, has suggested that payroll floors may be necessary.
"If a club legitimately trying to compete has a plan that calls for them to be at a particularly low payroll for a given year as part of a longer-range plan to compete the following year or years after that, management should have that flexibility," Weiner said.
There also is another reason.
"Players historically have suspected that the request for a salary floor is a precursor to a request for a salary cap," he said, "and you know what the position of this union has been on salary caps."
Weiner anticipates some change in the drug program for next year but didn't specific what they will be. Baseball does not test for human growth hormone because there is not a validated urine test.
"I think the testing policy is working great," he said. "Does that it mean that it can't be improved? Of course not."
He also was unconcerned the annual report from the drug program's independent administrator showed 108 players had therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) this year to use otherwise banned substances because of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
"The number of new exemptions is a far lower number," Weiner said. "A healthy percentage of applications for new TUEs were rejected."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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