By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
March 29, 2012
Unlike its gridiron and hardwood counterparts, as it moves from Spring Training to that annual rite of spring known as Opening Day on April 4, Major League Baseball is enjoying an uninterrupted era of labor peace. Without fanfare, the league signed a new collective bargaining agreement in November that will allow play to continue uninterrupted through the 2016 season – the longest labor deal in its history.
The smooth labor transition is also aided by the decision of MLB Commissioner Alan “Bud” Selig to put off retirement for two more years at the insistence of contented MLB owners, who have prospered under Selig’s 20-year reign as baseball’s umpire-in-chief.
One of Selig’s long-stated goals for his sport is on full display this week, as the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners travel to Tokyo for the league’s season-opening International Series – this year, hosted by MLB Japan. The San Francisco Chronicle noted that the A’s are hauling 8,000 pounds of equipment with them, including “bases, home plate, the on-deck circle…and a portable instant-replay machine."
"The game is popular in Japan, Korea and in Central America," Selig told MLB.com’s Meggie Zahneis. "I want to make the game popular all over the world, especially in Europe." To this end, the third iteration of the World Baseball Classic, one of Selig’s proudest achievements, will take place once again next spring.
While Selig’s current burden is not as heavy as that of the A’s luggage handlers, the Commissioner does face a couple of ownership dilemmas as the 2012 season kicks off. As the saga of the Los Angeles Dodgers bankruptcy and sale mercifully comes to a close, the divorce case of their neighbors to the south, the San Diego Padres, looks as if it will reopen.
But for now, the Commissioner can take enjoy the season’s international appetizer and look forward to opening his biggest, shiniest toy of the moment, the sparkling new $600 million, 37,000-seat Marlins Park in Miami.