In a sports world filled with labor strife, Bud Selig plays a cool hand

Baseball has had a reputation for dragging out labor disputes and alienating fans with numerous work stoppages in its history.  Funny now that in a sports world that has been turned upside down by labor disagreements between league executives and their unions over the past 12 months Bud Selig and MLB executives have quietly negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement in good faith.  The new agreement is expected to be ratified without a hitch in the near future.

Baseball in and itself has had a rough history as far as labor negotiations go.  Since 1972 there have been 5 work stoppages.  There were four players strikes (1972, 1981, 1985 and 1994-1995) as well as one owner lockout (1990).  The last strike in 1994-1995 was a crippling blow to the popularity of Major League Baseball at the time.  The strike lasted a grueling 232 days and cost Major League Baseball the 1994 post season.

Selig was in the front and center of this strike.  In 1988 the then-owner of the Milwaukee Brewers and fellow owner Jerry Reinsdorf of the Chicago White Sox were accused of colluding against free agents and damages were awarded to the union in the amount of $64.5 million.  Fay Vincent was eventually forced to resign his position as baseball commissioner.  Selig was named his interim replacement in 1992 and represented the owners through the strike of 94/95.  The strike cancelled the World Series for the first time since 1904.  It effectively destroyed an entire fanbase in Montreal, where the Expos were having their best season ever before the strike cut short the season.  The Expos existed with a fanbase in a state of apathy for another ten years before relocating to Washington D.C.  The eventual ending of the strike in 1995 was the end of a fifteen year stretch that included four work stoppages and over 320 days lost to labor strife and many thought that things would get worse due to the relationship between Bud Selig and then-Head of the MLB Players Union Donald Fehr.  Luckily things did not work out that way.

Selig was named official Commissioner of Baseball in 1998 after six years with the interim tag.  With another expiration of the CBA looming in 2002 and attendance down in some cities and some franchises losing money by the million Selig had his work cut off for him.  Things didn’t get any easier after the 9/11 attacks, which put pressure on the MLB and MLBPA to settle petty differences.  With the expiration looming on Labor Day weekend, Selig and the union came together to try and work out the first new collective bargaining agreement without a work stoppage in 30 years.  On August 30, 2002 the two sides agreed to a new 4-year deal and avoided what would be another crippling strike for the MLB.

From their things have become easy.  With little publicity the MLB and MLBPA agreed to a new 5-year extension in 2006 and are preparing to extend the deal again without a hitch in the coming days.  Regardless of your feelings on Selig regarding steroids, collusion, contraction, or anything else he’s done, there is no denying his record on collective bargaining.  In a sport that was 5-for-5 in work stoppages for CBAs expiring in a 30 year span, Selig has gone 17 straight seasons without a work stoppage, the last 9 without even the threat of a work stoppage.  Compare that to the NFL and NBA where relations between the owners and the unions are progressively worse and both sports have endured long lockouts, with the NBAs placing its season in jeopardy.

Who knows what the final book will say when it’s written on Bud Selig.  Regardless of how the book ends, the chapter on labor bargaining will be a bright spot.  Here’s to labor peace in at least one of our sports.  And we can all thank Bud.

Twitter @ErikVenskus

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

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