ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #7: Baseball gets a new Collective Bargaining Agreement

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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

This tweet that has gone viral over the past two days:

I have a lot of answers for that because I’m an old man, but my baseball answer for that would be “there was a time when Major League Baseball and the Players Union used to be adversaries.” It’s true! They’d fight about things and the players would go on strike or the owners would lock the players out or what have you. It kind of sucked, obviously, but it was just a part of the landscape of the game.

The last time there was enough acrimony between the league and the union to even threaten a work stoppage was 2002, when one was avoided at the last minute. The last time there was an actual work stoppage was now over 20 years ago, in the form of the 1994-95 strike. Since then, the expiration of each old Collective Bargaining Agreement has been met with an uneventful negotiation followed by a quick ratification of a new deal, with five more years of uninterrupted baseball ensured.

Such was the case this year. The new deal was reached around the first of December and was ratified later in the month. Among the more notable terms:

  • Home field advantage on the World Series will no longer be determined by the winner of the All-Star Game;
  • A hard cap has been placed on bonuses for international players;
  • The disabled list minimum stay has been reduced from 15 to 10 days;
  • Luxury tax thresholds increased, but not by as much as revenue has been increasing; and
  • Rookie hazing rituals will no longer include dressing players up as women or female characters;

A full summary of all of the terms can be read here.

There was nothing earth shattering in the agreement itself, but there were two aspects to it which could have serious repercussions in the future: (1) the union, for the first time ever, agreed to a hard cap on player compensation, in the form of that hard limit on international player bonuses; and (2) the union agreed to major provisions without securing player consensus, with there being several reports of player dissatisfaction with certain terms.

It’s good that we will have baseball, uninterrupted, for the next five seasons. It’s good that a deal was done. But, as I argued at length earlier this month, it’s possible that reaching that deal cost the union quite a bit in terms of solidarity and principle. The players may not have to pay much if anything for that now, but the next time they negotiate with the owners, they’ll have way weaker of a leg to stand on than they used to have as a result.

Bills always have a way of coming due.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.