Here's something you can be thankful for as you chomp on your turkey and stuffing: Since the last baseball work stoppage -- and that's now 20 years ago, if you're scoring at home -- the three other major North American sports have had six of them. So how 'bout that. Baseball. The sports world's new bastion of labor peace. It's safe to say Marvin Miller, Bowie Kuhn and Curt Flood never saw that coming. But in sports, nothing lasts forever. Not even World Series droughts on the North Side of Chicago (theoretically). So it's hard not to wonder. How long can this golden era of baseball kumbaya-hood last? It's a question worth asking now because the expiration date on baseball's current labor deal will be upon us in a year and six days, on Dec. 1, 2016. It's a question worth asking because this winter, sometime after the first of the year, negotiations will begin on the next labor deal. It's a question worth asking because so much has changed since the last deal was hammered out in November 2011. Rob Manfred negotiated the last one on the owners' side. He's the commissioner now. Michael Weiner negotiated the last one on the players' side. Tragically, he died of cancer, way too young, only two years later. So because it's a question worth asking, we've asked it repeatedly over the last few weeks, of a dozen people on both sides. And we have to admit we're relieved by the optimistic answers we've received. "It's a 9-and-a-half-billion dollar industry," was the response we got from one of the folks we surveyed. "Nobody is going to want to blow it up." Fortunately, we heard sentiments to that effect over and over. That's the good news. But just because there won't be a war doesn't mean there won't be a battlefield. That's the bad news. So what are the issues that could hang over these talks -- and potentially change the face of this sport? Here are just some of the big ones, in no particular order: Tanking The Chicago Cubs have been accused of it. The Houston Astros have all but admitted it. The Atlanta Braves have denied they're in the midst of it. But if there's even a chance tanking can turn into the new genius, this sport has to address it. There are plenty of people spinning this as nothing new, just a variation on the strip-it-down-then-build-it-up renovations teams have been doing for years. But there are others who recognize that some really smart front offices have figured out it's a way to manipulate the current system, by stocking up on high draft picks and the bonus pool that comes with them. What's the answer?: We've never heard more talk about a draft lottery than we've heard lately. But it would make sense that an NBA-type issue could produce an NBA-type solution. Here's another idea, however, that could even be more effective: No team would be allowed to pick in, say, the top five of the draft in back-to-back years. Think of the impact. The Astros had the first pick in three straight drafts. The Cubs grabbed Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber with the second and fourth picks in consecutive drafts. Should that be OK with the powers that be? It's possible we're about to find out. Qualifying offers and compensation picks We're now four years into a system that has seen 54 free agents have the option to accept a qualifying offer that would have paid them between $13.3 million (the 2012 figure) and $15.8 million (the 2015 figure) -- but for only one year. Precisely three of those 54 have accepted (all three this month). So here's the question: If you have an issue affecting so few players, does it constitute some sort of crisis needing to be fixed? Well, Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales would vote yes. There are a whole lot of people on the other side who would vote no. So let the debate begin.
Highlighting the major issues that could hang over the next labor deal
ESPN | Nov 26