The agreement came after intense and lengthy negotiations between the two sides, which continued overnight before representatives reached an agreement mid-day Friday. League Commissioner Bud Selig and Donald Fehr, the head of the players’ union, attended a morning bargaining session to finalize the deal.
The previous contract between the owners and players expired last year and the players’ union set an Aug. 30 strike date two weeks ago to increase pressure on owners.
As part of the agreement, high-revenue teams, like the New York Yankees, will have to share a larger percentage of their locally generated revenue with their less wealthy opponents, and a luxury tax will be levied on high-payroll teams to discourage grand salary contracts. Both measures are a victory for owners, who sought to even out the purchasing power of teams within the league.
Players also agreed to a policy that allows random testing for steroid use. But owners agreed not to eliminate any teams through the 2006 season, saving teams like the Montreal Expos and the Minnesota Twins, which owners tried to close down after last season.
Meanwhile, both sides agreed to introduce a worldwide draft aimed at improving opportunities for all teams to recruit new international players.
Players’ representatives applauded the deal ? and said the threat of a strike was a necessary evil.
“The reason we set a strike date was to get something done, and we did,” John McDonald, the Cleveland Indians’ player representative, said.
Selig called the announcement “historic,” saying it is the first time the league has reached an agreement in collective bargaining with no work stoppage.
“We can now turn our complete attention to the field,” Selig said.
Baseball has suffered through nine previous work stoppages; the latest came in the 1994-95 season, which cancelled the World Series for the first time since 1904. A strike would have cancelled the final 31 days of play and possibly the post-season as well.