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Major League Baseball, Players Union Are Close on Labor Contract

Nov. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Major League Baseball and its players association may announce a new labor contract as early as next week, union spokesman Greg Bouris said.

Bouris didn’t provide any details of the possible deal in an e-mail. “We’re confident a deal could be announced early next week,” he said yesterday.

The current collective bargaining agreement expires on Dec. 11. The new deal would extend an era of baseball labor peace that began after a strike wiped out the 1994 World Series. There were five strikes and three lockouts from 1972 to 1994.

An agreement also would enable baseball to avoid the labor stoppages that have occurred in professional football and basketball this year.

Baseball Vice President for Labor Rob Manfred didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

The Associated Press, citing an unidentified person familiar with the talks, reported the new deal would last five years.

The average salary in MLB was more than $3 million in 2010, and attendance was up this past season to 73 million fans, fifth most in baseball history.

Unlike the National Football League and National Basketball Association negotiations that played out in public, resulted in lockouts and spilled into the courts, baseball talks have been kept out of the spotlight by officials and representatives of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

The union represents all major-league players, about 1,200 on the 40-man rosters of the 30 clubs.

Playoff Expansion

The new contract may include provisions for an additional tier of playoffs and an extra team in each league in the postseason. Two days ago, owners approved those additions when they cleared the sale of the Houston Astros to Jim Crane and shifted the team to the American League from the National League.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said that he hopes the extra round of playoffs can begin in 2012, though he said a final decision on that had not yet been made. Teams would have to win as many as four series to capture a World Series title -- the St. Louis Cardinals won three series en route to their championship this season.

The Astros move will balance the leagues at 15 teams each and make scheduling easier. The change would require interleague play throughout the regular season.

The Astros will become the first major-league team to change leagues since 1998, when the Milwaukee Brewers moved to the NL Central division from the AL Central.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rob Gloster in San Francisco at rgloster@bloomberg.net; Scott Soshnick in New York at ssoshnick@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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