Business of Baseball Report

Minor League Umpires Say No to Latest Contract Offer

The Association of Minor League Umpires (AMLU) rejected the latest contract offer by the governing body of minor league baseball, the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues. Minor league umpires have been making the same amount of money for the last 10 years, and while the rejected offer did allow for a pay raise of $100 a month, it wasn’t enough. Union President Andy Roberts stated that this increase wouldn’t even cover the increased cost of healthcare.

The previous collective bargaining agreement was also the first for the AMLU. It began in March 2001 and expired last November. Under the old system, umpires made an increased amount based on the level of the league for which they worked. Triple-A umpires were paid $15,000, Double-A $12,000, full-season A-Ball $10,000 and umpires in the rookie leagues made $5,500. The typical minor league season is five months, so the $100 a month increase would have been a little more than a three percent increase for a Triple-A umpire. The AMLU is hoping to get annual increases in pay over the life of any new four-year contract.

Cuba is In WBC

The United States Treasury department finally backed off of its stance towards not allowing Cuba to play in the World Baseball Classic (WBC). MLB’s first application was shot down in mid-December, but the league’s office and the Major League Baseball Player’s Association (MLBPA) reapplied and said that the proceeds that Cuba received would be donated to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Prior to Cuba’s reinstatement, The International Baseball Federation had threatened to withdraw its sanction of the event, and Puerto Rico threatened to withdraw as a host in the early rounds of the tournament.

The WBC starts March 3, and I’m looking forward to this event. In my opinion, the more baseball and the earlier the baseball, the better.

Las Vegas Threatens to Sell Ballpark Land

Usually it’s a city that already has a major league team that’s threatening to relocate. Now Las Vegas—many think its chance of landing a big-league team is somewhere between slim and none—is dangling the land that had previously been pegged for a sports stadium out there with the threat that a team better take action now before it’s too late. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is now saying that if a team doesn’t step up and begin serious discussions with the city about moving to Las Vegas, he’ll be forced to sell the land for other projects.

Right now, the Florida Marlins are the only team that’s actively shopping to move. The Minnesota Twins are sort of angling themselves to explore the possibility, but until they resolve their Metrodome issues, they’ll be staying put. Whether these teams take advantage of Las Vegas’ expiring deal is something we’ll be able to see as we push into 2006.

Reds’ New Owner Begins Housecleaning

The Cincinnati Reds’ new owner, Robert Castellini, didn’t waste much time in beginning to put his own management team in place. The owners approved the sale of the team to Castellini last Thursday, and then just this past Monday the Reds announced that general manager Dan O’Brien had been fired. For the time being, baseball operations director Brad Kullman will be serving as the interim general manager until O’Brien’s permanent replacement is found.

The Reds have had a losing record for the fifth straight season, and you’d have to go back to the 1950s to find a longer streak of losing seasons for the franchise. Fans seem to like the move; however, they’re also skeptical as to whether the change came too late to improve the Reds’ chances in 2006, or whether they’ll have to wait until 2007 to see the potential benefits of new ownership..

Mediation Begins on Washington Nationals Stadium Issue

The Washington, D.C. council began the mediation process to resolve the D.C. stadium lease by meeting with Dennis, W. Archer, the former mayor of Detroit and the mediator on this case. In the meeting, council chair Linda Cropp gave a letter to D.C. mayor Anthony Williams spelling out 12 provisions that the city council agreed on that, if met, would mean the lease agreement would be passed. The biggest provision has to do with the stadium construction spending cap of $535 million, and the letter also requested more community benefits and more public appearances by players.

To come under the $535 million cap, the District government continues to tinker with the architectural designs of the stadium. One major change will be less reliance on glass as one of the main exterior features.

Another Round of Mediation Fails in Anaheim/Angels Court Battle

Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Polos advised both the city of Anaheim and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to spend Friday in mediation. Court wasn’t in session last Friday, and he even went as far as threatening to throw out one of the city’s arguments that the Angels’ marketing and merchandising programs are in violation of the stadium lease.

As expected, Friday came and went without an agreement. This isn’t too surprising because they went through the mediation process for months prior to the start of the court case. As long as “Los Angeles” remains in the Angels’ team name, it doesn’t appear that the two sides will be able to decide things amicably.

In other Angels news, the team is close to buying a radio station that would air radio broadcasts of the Angels in Spanish. The hope is that they’ll also be able to use this radio station, 830 AM, to eventually air the Angels’ English broadcasts when their deal with 710 AM expires in two years. Fans have complained for years about the weak signal of 710 AM, so a move to 830 AM, along with centering the entire day’s radio content on the team, sounds like a solid move for baseball fans in the area.

Astros Look to Recoup Bagwell’s Salary With Insurance Policy

The Houston Astros reported on Monday that they’d be filing a claim to collect $15.6 million of the $17 million owed to first basemen Jeff Bagwell this season. The Astros contend that Bagwell will be unable to play this season after having surgery on his right shoulder last year. They even went as far as sending Bagwell to a doctor who proclaimed that the shoulder’s still damaged and that the team couldn’t expect Bagwell to be productive this season.

The future Hall of Famer thinks otherwise. Bagwell plans on reporting to spring training, and his agent has said he’s ready to play. Bagwell has played for the Astros his entire 15-year career, and he is now saying that his relationship with the team has been irreparably damaged.

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