Bud Selig is a smart man, no doubt about it.
However what is best for Bud Selig and the owners often will come with an expense. That expense will likely include dampening the momentum that the Kansas City Royals organization has built up over the last four or five years as they move closer to contention.
On Tuesday MLB and the MLBPA came to a collective bargaining agreement, essentially a labor deal, that will pave the way for continual baseball for the next five seasons. You can read the agreement in its entirety here. If you don't care to read the entire legal jargon, MLB.com has also provided a rundown of the issues involved, which can be viewed here.
Before we get into what specifically will hurt clubs like the Royals, let's review some of the other key features-
Postseason baseball is expanding. There will be one additional wild card in each league, paving the way for a total of 10 teams to make the playoffs, possibly as early as next season. Much of that has to do with the Houston Astros moving to the American League West Division in 2013. Now there will be an equal amount of teams in each league (15).
Both wild cards in each division will take part in a one game playoff with the winner moving on to the Division Series round of the playoffs. It will certainly add some drama as we begin the postseason with the anxiety of a one-game playoff. However baseball, much like the NBA has long been built on the grind of a season. Unlike the NFL, baseball isn't a sport that should be placed in one-game microscope (unless it was Game 7 of a postseason series).
I'm fine with making each league have the same number of teams, but the direction that major league baseball is heading towards is to broaden the exposure of interleague play. With balanced leagues, there can now be interleague play all season long. For the purists (and many baseball fans are just that), there is a sense that this waters down the distinct lines between the leagues.
Many fans are still struggling with accepting interleague play as more than just a fad, and many are still partial to the league their favorite team resides in. This decision will break down the barriers even more between what fans held in such high regard.
The biggest issue from a national perspective is the extensive drug policy. Each player will be tested during spring training, and this includes blood samples that will be able to test for HGH. Also any player can be tested again during the year should there be reasonable cause.
Moving to what directly will impact the Royals and their fans the most, there were many things involving the draft and free agency compensation in this CBA agreement.
What will have the biggest negative impact on the organization is clubs will now be taxed and also potentially lose draft picks for going above slot within the first 10 rounds of the draft. As stated earlier, the rebirth the Royals are currently going through would not have been possible had they not exceeded slot recommendation for many players that are in the system at the moment.
This was one phase of baseball the Royals excelled at in recent years, and now it turns into a level playing field for all. The Pittsburgh Pirates and many other small market teams have come to the realization lately that overspending on the draft gave them one competitive advantage against the larger markets, and now that leverage seems to be gone with this new agreement.
Along with capped spending in the first 10 rounds, there also will be a capped amount on what teams can spend in international free agency. This was another area the Royals had seemed to excel at, and now that advantage appears to be no longer in place. If the Royals and the Boston Red Sox essentially have the same amount of money to spend on international players it now becomes much tougher to sell Kansas City to a player.
Now one argument against that is that with uncapped spending, larger markets could certainly always make the effort to spend freely and acquire all the international talent. And while that did happen at times under the old format, it was essentially a loophole that many small market teams used to their advantage when they overspent both on the draft and with international free agents. It should be stated though that unlike the capped spending across the board with the draft, the amount of money you can spend in international free agency will be determined by the record your major league club had in the previous season. The weaker teams will be allowed to spend more money.
Other key points are draftees now will have a shorter time frame to come to terms on contracts. Many of the high profile picks often held out until the last moment before the signing deadline, which often meant the season would be over before a player got into any games with the organization. It's a positive now that players will be able to play in meaningful games before the minor league season ends, however it won't make negotiations run any more smoothly.
All in all there are certainly some positives in the new CBA, especially knowing there will be no labor stoppage for the next five years, however the tightening of the rules with draft spending and how much teams are allowed to spend in international free agency certainly hurts the momentum that many small market clubs had going on both fronts. Let's just hope this doesn't have such a negative impact that it pushes teams like the Royals back down again for many years to come when it comes to obtaining young talent.