CBA Talk: The impact of the NFL CBA on MLB

While the media has been vigilant in its reporting of the NFL collective bargaining travails (sometimes to its detriment), reporting on the NBA has been scarce for the first month of the hoops lockout. And unless you asked around, you’d have every right to think that MLB’s own CBA was not expiring after this season ends.

All of the leagues and players unions like to think they have the best deals for their constituents, and are generally immune to effects from the deals struck by rival leagues. However, it’s clear now that the NHL CBA, struck in 2005 after the loss of an entire season, has shifted the landscape for the NFL and will do so in even an greater fashion to the NBA. Salary rollbacks and harder salary caps are the rule of the day now, with the economic downturn providing significant ammunition to the leagues. The pendulum has swung back, though it’s thought that when the NHL redoes its CBA after next season, a market correction towards labor will be due.

MLB remains on a different plane due to its lack of a salary cap and extensive revenue sharing. The “guaranteed share” measuring stick used by the other three leagues to determine what is fair for the players doesn’t exist in baseball, and it’s safe to say that it won’t for a long time. As long as the biggest stars keep getting nine-figure deals in free agency, MLBPA is perfectly content with the cost controls currently in place (service time + arbitration for young players).

That brings the comparison between the NFL and MLB down to one key item: the length of the agreement. MLB has usually done 4-6 year deals to allow for economic shifts – especially among individual teams. The NFL just blazed a trail by putting together a 10-year deal with no early opt-out by either signatory. Will Selig or the owners push for a longer deal? MLB is not as dependent on national TV money as the other leagues. Yet all of the network deals (Fox, ESPN, TBS) expire after the 2013 season. With networks pushing for more “sure things” in terms of programming, it’s not hard to see MLB trying to get up to 10 years out of each contract if they can.

Generally, leagues try to have some amount of overlap among the agreements with players, networks, merchandisers, etc. That way they don’t have to follow up one length negotiation with another. If MLB/Selig are influenced to push things out a little, it could mean that the next CBA could end anywhere from 2018 to 2021. If not, the CBA will probably expire in 2016 or 2017. Either way, there should be some kind of resolution to the A’s and Rays’ stadium situations. If not, well, I give up.

4 thoughts on “CBA Talk: The impact of the NFL CBA on MLB

  1. Great timing ML. There is hardly anything said about the CBA betwenn MLB and the MLBPA in the news media. I have read from Sports Illustrated online that there is a early out concerning the NFL agreement with an option for both the players union and the owners. I may be wrong but that is what I read. The NFL was lucky. The lockout started early in the offseason and very little if anything (Save for a preseason game) was lost. The hope here that a new agreement between the players and the owners with MLB will just as long as the new NFL agreement will be. It would great for the fans and Selig’s legacy no doubt.

  2. They were just talking about the no opt out in the NFL on the radio. The main reason for it is the tv deals will pay a premium in the last 3 years if there is no threat of a lockout.

  3. Do you see a way for NBC to get back into Major League Baseball? I think with Fox trying to invest more into soccer coverage through their Fox Soccer properties plus their interest in further buying into pro and college football, there may be an opening where NBC could snatch the Saturday afternoon contract. Failing that, they could use Versus to get the playoffs package that currently is on TBS. That would help them a ways to increase Versus’ household numbers.

  4. @Transic – I could see it happening. They’re paying less for the upcoming Olympics than they used to. I see them using Versus to try to get the TBS contract instead, since a MLB deal would do wonders for Versus compared to helping NBC. Who knows, maybe both? As long as Costas is in the studio and not in the booth.

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