Whatever baseball hasn’t nailed correctly in Tuesday’s CBA, it can probably tweak in the future as long as the current chastened climate — funny how decades of mortification begets temporary modesty — remains in place.
For a generation, it has been a second calling for true baseball fans, as well as critics, to take turns berating owners, commissioners, union heads, agents and players. Duty called. To be a fan was to love the sport while battering those who made millions while ignoring their responsibilities as stewards.
However, enough time and pain teaches anybody lessons. Eventually, baseball learned.
The CBA stunner was in drug testing. Who thought baseball would take blood to test for human growth hormone before the NFL with all its suspicious behemoths? But now baseball has opened that door.
As the first North American pro sport to start HGH testing, baseball will take an incremental approach, beginning next spring training. An in-season program won’t begin until 2013, earliest. We’ll need to see how effective that testing is. But such a fundamental change in stance by the union, a switch that seems impossible to reverse, deserves lots of praise.
Baseball now has five more years of labor peace, bringing its streak to 21 seasons. But something far more fundamental is in play: Neither side questions the basic viability of the current economic structure. “The system” itself isn’t under attack, as was the case with the NFL lockout, the catastrophe in the NBA and looming issues for the NHL.
Baseball, partly by luck, has evolved an economic structure that allows complex detailed negotiation by pros, not ultimatums by big egos.
Suddenly, the sport is solving problems a half-dozen at a time. In recent days, a new owner was found for the distressed Astros. Someday, the Dodgers, ravaged by the moronic McCourts, will be auctioned. And, now, the CBA arrives just in time so we can all say, “Thanks.”
●With Houston’s move to the American League in 2013, the leagues will be balanced; so, schedules will become more sensible (no 18 Nats-Marlins games per year).
●A new “hard-slot” system in the amateur draft may pinch the contracts of future Stephen Strasburgs and Bryce Harpers. Is it “fair?” No, but what good is a sanctioned monopoly if you never use it?
●Other new rules will impose penalties so severe for going “over slot” for an entire draft class that it’s unlikely any team will again land a haul like the Nats did in August when they grabbed Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer, Brian Goodwin and Matt Purke.