Report: Labor agreement is on tap

The Baltimore Sun

DETROIT -- While Major League Baseball is hosting its showcase event, the World Series, its representatives have reportedly reached a new, five-year labor deal with the players union to guarantee the show will go on through 2011.

The Associated Press, citing a source with knowledge of the negotiations, said a tentative deal was struck during talks Friday and Saturday in New York.

Specific details were not included, but the report said lawyers were resolving the language and that it could be made final today or tomorrow - with an announcement from commissioner Bud Selig possibly later this week when the World Series is in St. Louis.

Selig, who attended Game 2 here yesterday, did not offer a statement about the report. A baseball spokesman said Selig believed any comment would be "premature."

Orioles player representative Jay Gibbons said he had heard nothing official from the union, but he believed the prospects of a new deal were promising.

"I knew we were on the verge," Gibbons said. "I hadn't received anything that we had a deal done. But if that's true, that's good news."

The current agreement is not scheduled to expire until Dec. 19, meaning this could be the quickest and least acrimonious negotiations between the sides since the free-agency era began. The current agreement was signed in the 11th hour in 2002, while players were anticipating a work stoppage. In 1994, a labor dispute resulted in suspension of play in August that ultimately canceled the World Series.

Gibbons and his Orioles teammates had a late flight to California in 2002, and when the plane landed they weren't sure whether they would be playing that night.

"The difference between this time around and then is that we have been talking for a while," Gibbons said. "The communication between the union and Major League Baseball has been great. In 2002, there was no communication until the end."

St. Louis Cardinals reliever Braden Looper, the club's player representative, said he attended a negotiation session this summer and was impressed with the tenor of the discussions.

"I think it shows that both sides are willing to come to the table and realize that whatever it takes to get it done might [be what] is best for the game," Looper said.

There were no hot-button issues this time, with lesser topics such as team compensation for losing free agents and the 14-day window for declaring free agency among the matters discussed. After signing a lucrative television contract and experiencing the highest attendance in the sport's history this year, baseball seems to be on strong financial footing, which apparently provided a fresh dose of harmony.

"Absolutely," Gibbons said. "Baseball is making the most money it ever has. It has the most attendance we've ever had. There's no reason for anybody to be upset."

Any pending deal would have to be ratified by union members, but that likely would be a formality if union chief Donald Fehr and his people support it.

"If our representatives tell us that what they think is happening is a good deal, then I'll have to hear the details, but the players obviously wouldn't mind having a deal done," Looper said. "But we are going to make sure it is something we are happy with."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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