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Baseball's era of good feelings

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig speaks at a news

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig speaks at a news conference during baseball's general managers meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.. (Nov. 18, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

It has to irk the Wilpons that when Players Association head Michael Weiner visited the Mets' camp, reporters' questions concerned the Mets' financial solvency. And that Weiner validated those questions, confirming that he had spoken with the commissioner's office and received assurances that the teams' checks wouldn't bounce in 2011.

But looking at this from another side, it has to thrill the commissioner's office that the head of the union took what could have been an explosive issue and calmly defused it.

(Yes, yes, if things turn south, Weiner will have been on record putting the onus on the commissioner's office. But he could have sounded the alarms and chose not to do that.)

I wouldn't call Bud Selig a huge schadenfreude guy, but it probably doesn't devastate the commissioner that the Carmelo Anthony trade proceedings grew so ugly, with Anthony motivated primarily not to enter free agency because an expiring collective bargaining agreement made things so uncertain.

Likewise, the nastiness of the NFL discussions surely has registered out in Milwaukee, where Selig is a news hound.

As a contrast, Albert Pujols just decided to forego a huge contract with the Cardinals and try free agency. And the only ownership/player salvos that have been fired recently came from the trap of Hank Steinbrenner, who has less credibility than Terrell Owens. This despite the fact that baseball, like football and basketball, has a CBA that comes to an end following this season.

Baseball's owners are already disussing what to do about revenue-sharing, and really, this is an owner vs. owner issue as much as it is owners vs. players. The big-payroll teams such as the Yankees and Red Sox don't want to finance the smaller-payroll teams, but the reality is that the system has worked -- the Rangers making the World Series is good for the game, long-term, even if the short-term TV ratings stink -- and that it's just a matter of tweaking some formulas.

As JE noted here the other day in the comments, if Hank Steinbrenner feels so strongly about having baseball as fully capitalistic, then it's time to welcome that third team into the New York area.

The amateur draft is another issue of contention, as the owners want to institute a full slotting sytem and the players want nothing like that. But that's not the sort of thing over which you shut down a sport. You find compromise.

So Weiner, now in his second season as Don Fehr's replacement, will continue his tour of camps, and maybe he'll even fire off a flare or two, just to remind the world that he is a strong advocate for his constituency.

But both the player-owner dynamic and the certainty of the game's financial structure seem fabulous when you compare them to those of football and basketball. For baseball, after all of the labor rest they endured in the '70s, '80s and '90s, it's still a little odd to feel like a model of stability.

-- Carlos Beltran will likely begin the Grapefruit League schedule as a DH. 

-- Bartolo Colon will start the Yankees' opener on Saturday. 

-- Edinson Volquez will be the Reds' Opening Day starter. The real Opening Day, not exhibition Opening Day.

-- I'm in Port St. Lucie with the Mets and will check in later.

 

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