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Tuesday, June 13, 2006
World Series Home Field Advantage: Why Must It Be Negotiated?

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports today that Major League Baseball has not reached an agreement with the players union that will reward the All-Star Game winner with home-field advantage in the World Series ("Status of All-Star Game still unsure").

The All-Star Game format was changed in 2003 after the previous year's All-Star Game that ended in a 7-7 tie when both teams ran out of pitchers. At that time, MLB and the union negotiated a two-year deal and extended the agreement last year. So now MLB and the union have no agreement in place, but Commissioner Bud Selig said he is optimistic an agreement will soon be reached to retain the 3-year-old format: "We're still hopeful because I think it's really good for the game. Everyone likes it. The owners. The players. The sponsors. It just adds a lot of meaning." MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred, like Selig, is "hopeful" they will have an agreement with the union: "I think originally we had hoped that we would have sort of a permanent resolution to this issue. Time has become pressing because we're getting closer to the game. We decided to focus on a one-year agreement and hopefully have a multiyear done with the next (labor) agreement."

However, according to union head Don Fehr: "We're still talking to them, so we'll see. It's something that has to be negotiated."

I wonder what Fehr means by saying that "it's something that has to be negotiated"? Why must it be negotiated? Why doesn't MLB just tell the union that the All-Star Game is going to dictate home-field advantage for the World Series? The National Labor Relations Act requires an employer to negotiate "mandatory subjects" with the union. The NLRA defines mandatory subjects as those dealing with "wages, hours and working conditions". For once I'd like to see MLB stand up to the union and say that home-field advantage for the World Series is not a mandatory subject, and, thus, there's no negotiation.

In case you're wondering why maybe the MLBPA is the strongest union in professional sports....


I hear you Rick. I am so sick of Fehr and all the babies in this sport. I hate to say it, but Bud Selig will go down in history as a Commissioner who had no desire to demonstrate leadership in any way. Further, when will the court of public opinion finally say that they are tired of Fehr and his gang of theives? I wish this could be done like it did in the NHL to Saskin and the Boys. This is utterly ridiculous.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 6/13/2006 9:41 PM  

Individual players have their contracts with the clubs, rather than MLB baseball. My guess is that those contracts don't impose an obligation to play in the all-star game, and that teams aren't paying players for their performance in the all-star game. That means that the time spent by a player isn't part of their SPK -- and instead, represents a new "hours" term that needs to be negotiated. I'm guessing that to the extent players are compensated for their time at the all star weekend other than by way of bonuses in the team contracts (e.g., a bonus for making the all star team), that compensation comes from MLB, which probably pockets the revenue.

What does all this mean? I guess players could refuse to show up for an all star game. Of course, it's an honor, and they probably wouldn't...or would they?

Blogger Geoffrey Rapp -- 6/14/2006 9:17 PM  


I would say that the negotiated subject at issue here simply has to do with which league has home field advantage for the world series. MLB and the union are not negotiating additional playing time, or whether there is going to be an all-star game, or compensation for playing in the all-star game -- all of which, arguably, would be mandatory subjects. All that's going on here is that MLB feels the compelling need, for some reason, to get the union's consent that the winner of the all-star game determines home field advantage for the world series.

Regarding your last question, most players consider it an honor to be chosen. But in any event, I don't think it would be wise for the players (as a group anyways) to boycott the all-star game.

Blogger Rick Karcher -- 6/15/2006 9:51 AM  

Anyone notice that Selig cited player, owner and sponsor support, but seems to have forgotten about the fans. I've yet to meet a real baseball fan who thinks anything in the World Series ought to be dictated by the All-Star game exhibition.

As for the union involvement, there is one word for MLB owners: scared. They are scared of the players and the union. In the early days of baseball, owners had too much backbone. Through evolution or some other mysterious force (free agency?) the backbone of the human MLB owner has softened to the point that they live and breathe as gelatinous masses.

Okay, I'm exaggerating, but I cannot remember the last time MLB took Nancy Reagan's advice and just said "No." Why is that? It seems unlikely that a group of 30 really stupid owners would all end up in MLB, and not in one of the other big sports.

On a subject like this, I can't figure out whether Fehr so lusts for power that he injects himself into every issue, or whether it is the union's position that it must get involved in every issue as a symbol of how hard they are working for the players. "Boy, that Don Fehr sure works hard for us players."

Or is it that Fehr smells fear?

Blogger Jeff McFarland -- 6/15/2006 10:44 AM  

Rick, I see your point about some aspects of the all-star game being mandatory items for negotiation (who will pay the players, how much, etc.) while others might be permissive items. Still, I think it's a close call; my guess is that with something like this, the league would prefer to get agreement rather than have negotiations break down (raising the risk of no all star game at all). Here's my thought: The "game matters" formula they adopted after the '03 debacle does (dramatically) affect who plays in the game. When the game matters, fewer players will play for longer periods of time -- and the better ones will play the most. Now, I haven't looked back at the substitution cards, but I bet there are more players now who don't play a single at bat. Isn't that an "hour" or a "condition of employment" issue?

Blogger Geoffrey Rapp -- 6/15/2006 11:36 AM  

McFarland hitting home runs today all over the sports law blog! As far as Fehr goes, he craves power no doubt. He's also a complete "idiot" in terms of public relations, especially after the steroid hearings debacle. Frankly, I like the McFarland approach to saying, "no." I mean really. Just say no. Nada. Forget it. Unfortunately, owners have had their a$$ whipped so many times, they don't know how to say no anymore.....

Anonymous Anonymous -- 6/15/2006 3:27 PM  


I still don't think it's a mandatory subject. Players are not obligated to play in the all-star game, and the league is not implementing a rule that impacts their playing time or their work conditions. Any player participating in the all-star game knows that he may or may not play (well, I guess designated starters know they will play for sure), and they don't know exactly how many innings they will play.

You're argument seems to go like this: If the league decides that the winner gets home field advantage, then that means players will have to play harder in the all-star game than they otherwise would. But my argument would be that choosing to not play harder or to play harder in the all-star game would be their decision. My guess is that it would have no effect on their decision. Now, it may be foolish to have the all-star game winner determine home field advantage, but it needs to be decided in some fashion and that's for the league to decide. I personally think that MLB has not challenged the union enough in terms of what constitutes mandatory subjects.

Blogger Rick Karcher -- 6/15/2006 3:57 PM  

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