Athletics

MLB sides sign 5-year labor contract

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MLB sides sign 5-year labor contract

NEW YORK -- Baseball players and owners signed an agreement for a new labor contract Tuesday, a deal that makes baseball the first North American professional league to start blood testing on human growth hormone and expands the playoffs to 10 teams by 2013.

The five-year deal collective bargaining agreement announced Tuesday, makes changes owners hope will increase competitive balance by pressuring large-market teams to rein in spending on amateur draft picks and international signings.

An initial positive test for HGH would result in a 50-game suspension, the same as a first positive urine test for a performance-enhancing substance.

"This was very important to me," Selig said. "This really is in everyone's best interest."

Random testing for HGH will take place during spring training and the offseason, but there is no agreement yet on random testing in-season. There can be testing at any time for cause.

"We've consulted with a lot of scientists on this, and we know there's a difference of opinion among scientists we've consulted," Weiner said. "We are sufficiently comfortable with the science to go ahead with testing, but we have preserved the right if there is a positive test for there to be a challenge - if that's appropriate - to the science at that point in time."

The sides will explore in-season testing, but the union wants to make sure it's done in a way that doesn't interfere with players' health and safety.

"The players want to get out and be leaders on this issue, and they want there to be a level playing field," Weiner said. "The realities, though, are that baseball players play virtually every single day from Feb. 20 through October. And that's unlike any other athlete - professional or amateur - who's subject to drug testing. We want to make sure that we're doing everything we can on the HGH issue, but that it be consistent with not interfering with competition and not interfering with players health and safety under those circumstances."

At a time when the NBA season is threatened by a lockout and NFL preseason was disrupted by labor strife, this deal ensures baseball will have 21 consecutive years of labor peace since the end of the 1994-95 strike.

"Nobody back in the '70s, '80s and early '90s, 1994, would ever believe that we would have 21 years of labor peace," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said.

The deal, which still must be ratified by the players and owners, is the first contract since Michael Weiner replaced Donald Fehr as union leader last year.

As for the playoffs, there will be an additional two teams starting in 2012 or 2013 that will give baseball 10 of 30 clubs in the postseason. In the NFL, 12 of 32 teams make the playoffs. In the NBA and NHL, 16 of 30 advance.

The two wild cards in each league - the non-first place teams with the best records - will meet in a one-game playoff, and the winners will move on to the division series.

This agreement calls for the Houston Astros to switch from the NL Central to the AL West in 2013, leaving each league with three five-team divisions. It's baseball's first realignment since the Milwaukee Brewers went to the NL after the 1997 season.

On the economics, the threshold for the luxury tax on payrolls will be left at 178 million in each of the next two seasons, putting pressure on high-spending teams such as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies not to raise their spending even more. The threshold rises to 189 million for 2014-16.

The minimum salary reaches the 500,000 mark in 2014, and then there will be cost-of-living increases in both of the following two years. There will also be a new "competitive balance lottery" that gives small-market teams extra selections in the amateur draft.

Major league free agent compensation will be completely revised in 2013, with a team having to offer its former players who became free agents the average of the top 125 contracts - currently about 12 million - to receive draft-pick compensation if a player signs with a new team. It eliminates the statistical formula that had been in place since the 1981 strike settlement.

In addition, the portion of players with 2-3 years of major league service who are eligible for salary arbitration will rise from 17 percent to 22 percent starting in 2013.

And there a new market disqualification test, preventing teams from large markets from receiving revenue-sharing proceeds - and lowering the amount the big teams pay as long as they stay under the payroll threshold.

Owners achieved their goal of reining in spending on amateur players coming to the major leagues. For high school and college players taken in the June amateur draft, there will be five bands of penalties, starting with a 75 percent tax on the amount 0-5 percent over a specified threshold for each team next year, based on its selection spot. For teams going 5-10 percent over, the tax will rise to 100 percent and they will lose their next first-round draft pick. If a team goes more than 15 percent over, it could lose its following two first-round draft picks.

For players taken in the 11th round and beyond, teams may give them signing bonuses up to 100,000 without it counting against the new threshold.

For international amateur signings from nations such as the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, a luxury tax will begin with the July 2012-June 2013 signing season.

Who can we blame for epidemic of teams losing three straight elimination games?

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AP

Who can we blame for epidemic of teams losing three straight elimination games?

Fox’ Matt Vasgersian, who does his job well,  declared the New York Yankees’ American League Division Series win over Cleveland to be amazing.

It is not. Not any more.

In fact, the Yankees winning three elimination games in succession is a feat that has happened seven times in the past three years. And we can only conclude from that that they’re not making teams that can avoid the bad beat the way they used to.

The 2017 Indians joined the 2016 Indians, Warriors and Thunder, the 2015 Clippers, Capitals and Texas Rangers, the 2014 Penguins and Sharks, the 2013 Red Wings, the 2012 Reds and Cardinals, the 2011 Penguins, the 2010 Bruins and Capitals as proud laryngectomy victims – teams that needed to win only one of three (or in the Sharks’ case, four) games to advance in the playoffs (or in the Warriors’ case, win).

That’s 15 times this “amazing” thing has happened, which means that by any estimate, teams that needed to win three consecutive games to escape the icy hand of Uncle Death are now pretty much the norm in this decade.

And why, you ask? I blame Twitter. I blame global warming. I blame video games. I blame smartphones. I blame phones. I blame the new president. I blame the old president. I blame Satan. I blame participation trophies and orange slices and juice boxes. I blame the players and I blame the owners and I blame the fans and definitely those smarmy bastards in the media. They’re the worst.

I blame you. Hell, I think I blame Matt Vasgersian.

But whomever is at fault, we have here an epidemic of feet strangling their owners when everything seems their cheeriest. And unless we live in such misery-enriched times that good times are only precursors to far worse ones, there is no sensible explanation. Players’ windpipes are no smaller than they were a decade ago. The Internet is older than seven years. Close-out games are not materially more difficult than they were before 2010.

And yet winning that one extra game is suddenly like finding out your SAT test has been written totally in anagrams. In other words, when things look brightest, that’s when you know you’re totally screwed.

And if you don’t believe me, ask Terry Francona. In a few weeks maybe. Not right away. Not unless you’re keen to see how it feels to have your neck used as a bathmat.

 

Cleveland blows 2-0 series lead, Yankees win Game 5, head to ALCS

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USATSI

Cleveland blows 2-0 series lead, Yankees win Game 5, head to ALCS

BOX SCORE

CLEVELAND -- These young Yankees were unshaken, resilient and as tough as the city they represent.

The baby Bronx Bombers have grown up fast.

Didi Gregorius, following in the October footprints left by Derek Jeter, homered twice off Corey Kluber as New York beat the Cleveland Indians 5-2 in Game 5 on Wednesday night to complete its comeback from a 2-0 deficit in the Division Series and dethrone the AL champions.

The bend-but-don't-break Yankees, way ahead of schedule, staved off elimination for the fourth time in this postseason and advanced to play the Houston Astros in the AL Championship Series starting Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

With a blend of young stars and older veterans coming up big, the Yankees rocked Cleveland and bailed out manager Joe Girardi, who failed to challenge a key call in a Game 2 loss that threatened to sabotage New York's season.

"These guys had my back and they fought and fought," Girardi said. "They beat a really good team. What those guys did for me, I'll never forget it. "

The Yankees went 2-5 against the AL West champion Astros, led by 5-foot-6 dynamo and MVP candidate Jose Altuve. But none of that matters now to this group of New Yorkers.

After winning twice at home, and after Girardi said he "screwed up" and felt horrible about it, the Yankees - with little offensive help from rookie star Aaron Judge - came into Progressive Field and finished off the Indians, who won 102 games during the regular season, ripped off a historic 22-game winning streak and were favored to get back to the World Series after losing in seven games a year ago to the Chicago Cubs.

Cleveland's Series drought turns 70 next year - baseball's longest dry spell.

"Nobody wanted the season to be over," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "It doesn't wind down, it comes to a crashing halt. It's disappointing. We felt good about ourselves. We made it harder to win, especially in the last two games."

The Indians closed to 3-2 in the fifth against starter CC Sabathia before David Robertson pitched 2 2/3 hitless innings for the win. Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, who faced Cleveland in last year's spine-tingling World Series and signed an $86 million free agent contract in December, worked two innings for the save.

Chapman went to the mound with a three-run lead in the ninth after Brett Gardner battled Cody Allen for 12 pitches before hitting an RBI single, with New York's fifth run scoring when Todd Frazier raced home on right fielder Jay Bruce's throwing error.

Gardner's gritty at-bat was symbolic of these Yankees. They wouldn't give in.

"We can win a lot of different ways," Gardner said.

When Austin Jackson was called out on strikes to end it, the Yankees rushed to the mound to celebrate with a wide-eyed Chapman. An elated Girardi hugged his coaches.

The Yankees became the 10th team to overcome a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of-five playoff series. New York also did it in 2001, rallying to beat Oakland - a series remembered for Jeter's backhand flip to home plate.

Gregorius, who took over at shortstop following Jeter's retirement after the 2014 season, hit a solo homer in the first off Kluber and added a two-run shot in the third off Cleveland's ace, who didn't look like himself during either start in this series.

One win shy of a Series title last year, the Indians had only one goal in mind in 2017.

They came up short again, and have now lost six consecutive games with a chance to clinch a postseason series. The skid dates to last year's World Series, when they squandered a 3-1 lead to the Cubs.

Cleveland is the first team in history to blow a two-game series lead in consecutive postseasons.

Everything was set up for the Indians: Kluber on the mound, Game 5 at home, sensational setup man Andrew Millerrested.

The Yankees, though, wouldn't be denied. They battled back from a 3-0 deficit in the first inning of their wild-card game against Minnesota and then had to overcome a crushing loss in Game 2, when Girardi's decisions led to him being booed at Yankee Stadium.

But these Yankees displayed pinstriped pride.

They're moving on.

JUDGE NOT

The Yankees advanced without much help from Judge, who struck out four times in Game 5 and went 1 for 20 (.050) in the series with 16 strikeouts - an ALDS record. But the 6-foot-7 rookie might have saved New York's season in Game 3, when he reached above the right-field wall to rob Francisco Lindor of a two-run homer in a 1-0 win. "I didn't do my job at the top of the order, but my teammates came up big for me," Judge said.

KLUBER KLOBBERED

Kluber was one of baseball's most consistent pitchers all season, winning 18 games and leading the AL with a 2.25 ERA.

However, October was cruel to the right-hander. He allowed nine runs, including four homers, over 6 1/3 innings in two postseason starts, hardly what he or the Indians expected.

Kluber overcame a back issue earlier this season and it flared up this fall.

"He's fighting a lot," Francona said. "I think you also have to respect the fact that guy wants to go out there and he's our horse. And sometimes it doesn't work."

SLUMPS

The Indians batted .171 as a team with All-Stars Francisco Lindor (2 for 18) and Jose Ramirez (2 for 20) unable to snap out of funks.

SWEET SWING

Gregorius set a franchise record for home runs in a season by a shortstop with 25, one more than Jeter hit in 1999 when No. 2 led the Yankees to a second straight World Series title.

Gregorius got New York off to an ideal start, homering with two outs in the first when Kluber grooved a fastball. The shot deep into the seats in right raised the anxiety level to an already jittery Cleveland crowd fearing the worst.