Major League Baseball's All-Star Game is returning to its origins.
That is, as strictly the exhibition that it was intended to be.
Although it's far from the most important element of the new five-year collective-bargaining agreement reached between management and the players Wednesday night in Dallas, one aspect of it garnered immediate attention. As first reported by The Associated Press, the All-Star Game no longer will determine home-field advantage in the World Series.
After a tie in the 2002 All-Star Game in Milwaukee (caused by running out of pitchers) embarrassed the sport, and especially then-commissioner Bud Selig -- a Milwaukee native with ownership interests in the Brewers -- he decided the Midsummer Classic needed additional drama. And so from 2003-16, the winner of the game, accompanied by a "this time it counts" slogan, earned home-field advantage for its league for the World Series.
As part of the new CBA, home-field advantage will be determined by which pennant-winner has the best record -- a victory for common sense, if nothing else.
Owners and the MLBPA, which had been engaged in at-times snail-paced negotiations in recent months, agreed on terms of a deal just more than three hours before the old CBA expired, avoiding the possibility of a lockout.
The deal still is in a Memorandum of Understanding stage and has not yet been officially signed, though both sides sent out news releases before midnight Wednesday announcing an agreement.
"I want to thank the players for working diligently for more than a year to negotiate an agreement that, when finalized, will benefit all involved in the game and leaves the game better for those who follow," MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said.
Part of the MLB statement said: "The parties continue to draft the entirety of the tentative agreement. Specific terms of the pact will be made available when the drafting process is complete."
Details trickled out almost from the time news broke of the agreement. The luxury-tax threshold will rise from $189 million to $195 million in 2017, $197 million in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $209 million in 2020 and $210 million in 2021. Fox Sports first reported the figures. Big-money clubs, including the Yankees, were waiting for the new threshold before attacking the offseason in earnest.
Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has long talked about his intent to get his team's payroll under the threshold and lower his club's tax penalty. That seems a realistic possibility by 2018, as they'll be out from under contracts such as CC Sabathia's and Alex Rodriguez's.
More than a few in the game think the owners overall gained more in the new deal than the players did, though the latter did score some victories. For example: Teams that sign a free agent who received the qualifying offer no longer will lose a first-round pick.
Under the new system, which will go into effect next offseason, if a club that receives revenue-sharing signs a player who declined the qualifying offer, it will lose its third-highest pick in the draft, according to the AP. If it's a club that pays a luxury tax, it will lose its second- and fifth-highest picks and forfeit $1 million in its international draft pool.
Additionally, a player can receive a qualifying offer only once in his career -- a change from the old CBA -- and now will have 10 days to mull it over, up from seven days.
Some additional highlights from the new CBA, according to the AP and other sources:
-- Smokeless tobacco will be banned for all new players, though enforcement is unclear.
-- The regular season will expand from 183 days to 187 starting in 2018, creating more scheduled off days, a desire of the MLBPA.
-- The minimum time for a stint on the disabled list is reduced from 15 days to 10.
-- Despite a push from management to implement changes, active rosters will remain at 25 for the first five months of the season and increase to 40 on Sept. 1.
-- There will be no international draft (management had wanted one), but there will be a hard cap, starting at $4.75 million for the signing period beginning next July 2, on each club's bonus pool.