Safe to say that Monday’s annual meeting of the Major League Baseball Players Association in Dallas is the most important in 15 years – it will certainly be the focus of greater attention than any meeting since the bad, old days of labour fratricide.
The current collective bargaining agreement expires on Thursday, and according to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal a group of owners and negotiators from the commissioner’s office will be in attendance at the players’ meetings. In the past, any player who has wanted to sit in on bargaining sessions has been free to do so.
Rosenthal reported that owners made a new proposal to players on Saturday that included alterations to a plan that would see an international draft swapped for the shelving of free-agent draft compensation. There is no indication yet as to whether the sides have made any progress on the thorny issue of adjusting the luxury tax threshold, but a source familiar with past negotiations believes agreement on the international draft and free-agent compensation would be enough to delay any plans owners have for a vote to lock out players.
Owners would be in a position to do so once the current CBA expires, and while it’s extremely remote a lockout would impact spring training or the World Baseball Classic, it would mean the suspension of off-season business, including trades and free-agent signings. Baseball hasn’t had a labour stoppage since the 1994 players’ strike, although it came within hours of doing so in 2002.
HOME SWEET HOME
As Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey told reporters on Sunday: “I’m looking for that bear coming around the corner. Always.” He wasn’t just talking about the Memphis Grizzlies, who will be at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday, but also about a bear of a different variety: a cub, in the form of Monday night’s opponents, the youthful, athletic Philadelphia 76ers.
This has been perhaps one of the most difficult stretches of games in the past three years for Casey: back-to-back losses to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors and then wayward defensive performances in a five-game road trip that had back-to-back losses to the Sacramento Kings (ick!) and the Los Angeles Clippers before two wins against the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks. Casey’s job this season is an odd one: don’t read too much into good games, try not to read too little into bad ones and keep everybody healthy for the playoffs. And it’s not even December.
This six-game home stand, the longest of the regular season, could not come at a better time for a team that needs to reacquaint itself with the graft and defensive principles that will ultimately make the difference this spring. The offence will be there – that’s a given. But the absence of travel these next two weeks gives Casey a chance to reinforce lessons that can easily get shoved aside when a team loses four out of five – the exception being an overtime win – the way the Raptors did before their finishing kick.
If they need help reminding themselves of what they are about and the standards they’ve set, they’ll get it on this home stand. Wednesday’s game is expected to be the 100th consecutive sellout at the ACC (the last game that wasn’t a sellout was Nov. 9, 2014 against the Sixers), and if all goes according to plan DeMar DeRozan (who is 356 points away from tying Chris Bosh for the franchise lead) will tie the franchise record for games played one week from tonight against the Cavaliers.
The Raptors have won their last 12 games against the Sixers. The franchise record for consecutive wins against one team is 18, against the Chicago Bulls from March 23, 1999-Dec. 6, 2002. The Raptors have also had a streak of 12 consecutive wins versus the Minnesota Timberwolves (Dec. 15, 2004-March 22, 2010) and 11 against the Orlando Magic (Nov. 18, 2012-April 10, 2015).