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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.

Astros, Nationals set to face off in the World Series starting Tuesday

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Saturday night’s wild ALCS finale will live in the mind of Astros and Yankees fans for a long, long time, but the Astros only have two days to bask in it because they have other business to attend to: the Washington Nationals, who they will host Tuesday evening in Game 1 of the World Series.

For the Astros, this year’s World Series presents the chance to forge a dynasty. To carry on a journey in which they’ve risen from a three-time 100-loss club to a three-years-straight 100-win club with not just one, but two World Series titles in the space of those three seasons.

For the Nationals, the World Series presents an opportunity to complete a pretty compelling narrative in which they’ve grown stronger as the year has gone on: from a near disastrous 19-31 start, to a late, come-from-behind victory in the Wild Card Game, to beating the favored Dodgers in the NLDS to simply dominating the Cardinals in the NLCS. The Nats are nobody’s Cinderella, but a win over the Astros would certainly make them one of the more notable giant-killers in recent memory. And, of course, would give them their first World Series title in franchise history and the city of Washington its first World Series winner since the Senators won it in 1924.

We’ll break down this Series in greater detail over the next couple of days, but for now it’s worth noting that this matchup presents us with, arguably, the best possible group of starting pitchers in the game. Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin are six of the top — what? — 15 starting pitchers going right now? And Aníbal Sanchez has been pitching pretty dang good for Washington of late as well. Bullpenning is all the rage these days — and Houston’s Game 6 win was a bullpen affair — but there is something classic and compelling about a handful of aces facing off in October.

The difference-maker could very well be an Astros offense that — last night’s José Altuve walkoff blast notwithstanding — has, somehow, gone relatively quiet this postseason. Postseason pitching is always tough — and in beating the Rays and Yankees they faced two of the best bullpens going — but their collective 3.7 runs per game and .645 team OPS is very un-Astro-like. To beat the Nats, they’ll definitely want to see those numbers go higher.

For Washington, it’ll be about figuring out how to beat Gerrit Cole, Game 1’s starter, and Justin Verlander, who will likely go in Game 2. They’ll have to face each of those 20-game winners/Cy Young contenders twice if this series goes long. That seems daunting, but so too did climbing out of the hole they found themselves in in late May and beating the Dodgers in a five-game series. The Nats have dealt pretty well with “daunting” thus year and, at the moment, they’re playing their best baseball of the season.

So the stage is set. Washington vs. Houston in the 115th edition of the Fall Classic. Things get underway just after 8PM Eastern on Tuesday evening when Gerrit Cole fires in a near-100 m.p.h. fastball to Trea Turner. Stay with us over the next three days for our breakdown of what looks to be an epic matchup.