Appreciating MLB Labor-Ownership Peace

I was a pretty big critic of the CBA signed before the 2012 season started by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association. I viewed it as a short-sighted attempt to reduce player development costs, which in the long run would hurt the sport.

That said, it could be worse. After labor disputes threatened the NBA and NFL seasons, the National Hockey League, as of yesterday, is now experiencing its second lockout in seven years. The last time this happened, the entire 2004-2005 season was canceled. The lockout could have destroyed professional hockey as we knew it, but thankfully it ended without major damage to the NHL going forward. As a born-and-raised New Jersey Devils fanatic, yesterday was not a happy day.

(On a side note, I’ve begun blogging occasionally at Talking Red, a New Jersey Devils blog, and spoke about the NHL lockout in a podcast today, downloadable here.)

MLB had its own brush with destruction. The 1994 World Series was canceled following an intense labor dispute. The fallout from the dispute put a damper on professional baseball until Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa revived things in the United States, and it has never really recovered in Canada. Baseball is thriving today, but without a fortunate (and likely drug-fueled) home run race, it might not be.

Another consequence of 1994 was that the MLB owners and players learned that they had to work together. Before it, there was no effective working relationship between the two parties. After it, they have successfully been able to renegotiate agreements without any real hint of a labor dispute. They took 1994 as a cautionary note, and decided not to create a lose-lose situation through a work stoppage. Instead, they’re just playing baseball and making money. Its no coincidence that the modern day baseball renaissance has occurred at the same time that MLB has played two decades of uninterrupted baseball.

As we said on the above-mentioned podcast, that’s what really matters. As a fan, I’m significantly less interested in the details of a giant contract dispute between millionaires and billionaires, over who get marginally richer because of said contract. I’m interested in watching the best baseball players in the world play the best sport in the world. So, thank you MLB and MLBPA, for working out your difficulties thus far without having to cancel baseball games, and may you continue to work together in the future.

E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He lives and works in Washington, DC.