Major League Baseball owners and its players' association reached a tentative agreement late Wednesday on a new collective bargaining agreement, ensuring labor peace will extend 26 years since the ignominious 1994 strike.
The complete details of the agreement are still not known, but bits and pieces have emerged. Here are some important items:
1. This Time It Doesn't Count: Home-field advantage in the World Series will finally be decided by best record for the first time in the sport's modern history. Before Bud Selig instituted the All-Star Game as arbiter and FOX marketed it as This Time It Counts!, home-field advantage rotated every season from league to league. Now, as it should, more importance is placed on the 162-game season.
The National League was at a decided disadvantage in the 14 World Series played under "This Time It Counts" because the American League won 11 of those 14 All-Star Games. But, whether through luck or randomness of the universe, the pennant winner with the best record managed to have home-field advantage in the World Series 11 of the 14 years under "This Time It Counts."
The three teams that did not: St. Louis, which lost in 2004 to Boston; Texas, which lost to St. Louis in 2011; Chicago, which beat Cleveland in 2016.
Everyone can agree the new system is fairer. The Associated Press reported that players in the All-Star Game will play for a pot of money. Who doesn't love a pot of money?
2. RIP, 15-day DL. The disabled list is no longer 15 days. Long live the 15-day DL. The new agreement reduces the minimum time on the disabled list to 10 days. This makes so much sense; who wouldn't want a chance to see their favorite players for more games during the season? There are some injuries that do not require the full two weeks on the disabled list, but teams had to DL a player because they needed the roster spot.
It is unclear whether MLB will retain the 7-day DL, which was exclusively used for concussions.
3. The biggest losers. It's always the amateurs. In this case, it is international amateurs. Owners wanted an international draft. The players did not. But the MLBPA does not represent amateur players, and it often sacrifices their rights for the more senior union members.
Every team will have a hard cap, reportedly close to $5 million, to sign international free agents. In the old system, teams had bonus pools dependent on their record from the previous season. The worse you were, the more amateur money you had. The Phillies, who had the worst record in 2015, had $5.6 million to spend on international amateurs in 2016. They spent it all, a team source said. But they might regret not spending more, now that it appears all teams are equal.
(UPDATE: Penalties incurred in the international market under the old system will carry over to the new system, so had the Phillies spent more, they may have been subjected to a $300,000 cap on individual player bonuses. The full ramifications of the new international system remain unclear.)
In essence, this new cap could deter "tanking" to gain more amateur pool money. But, above all, it limits costs for the owners. A 16-year-old Venezuelan still has his choice of employer, but his shot at a seven-figure bonus has decreased. Some teams, such as the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers, blew through their allotted pool in one year to acquire young talent and faced stiff penalties in subsequent years. That is no longer allowed.
It will be fascinating to see how teams, now equal in finances, find a competitive advantage in the international market — beyond good, old-fashioned scouting.
4. Roster status quo. In the weeks leading to the negotiation deadline, numerous reports detailed a 26-man roster and changes to the September roster expansion. Well, none of that happened. The roster rules will remain the same.
This is good and bad. It was not hard to envision a majority of teams taking that 26th roster spot and handing it to a reliever, which no one except relievers of the world wants. Pitching changes are the root of long games. Then again, some teams could have been creative with the extra roster spot. More jobs are never a bad thing.
That the September problem went unaddressed is disappointing. The quality of play is different in September, when managers have 40 men at their disposal, and matchups galore happens.
5. Jeremy Hellickson is free. Under the new CBA, players cannot be tied to a qualifying offer more than once in their careers. This is specific to the Phillies in that Hellickson will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2017 season. The Phillies will receive no compensation for losing him — unless he is traded at the deadline in July.
The changes to the qualifying-offer system and luxury-tax limits are complex.