Look for the union label

The clubhouse remained closed to the media today, with players taking the field for batting practice after their union meeting adjourned.

Michael Weiner, general counsel to the players association, has two more camps to visit this spring. His car was pointed in the general direction of Fort Myers.

"It's mostly about getting ready for bargaining because there's such turnover in the player composition that you have a lot of players who haven't been through it before," he said. "The response so far in all the clubhouses is really positive."

Weiner said the topic of realignment is "not a front-burner issue" at the moment. It'll be dealt with down the road instead of immediately.

"There has been some discussion about realignment, but more about some of the other on-field issues," he said.

"There have been discussions about realignment in one sort or another for a long time. Back in the early '90s there was talk about radical realignment that would have changed the traditional historic identities of the American and National League. There's talk now in the press about everything from that kind of alignment to a more targeted realignment to deal with the American League East."

Thank you.

"The schedule and alignment are complicated in the sense that they're multi-faceted subjects," Weiner said. "There's competitive considerations, there's revenue considerations, there's schedule and travel and player conditions considerations. There's an awful lot that goes into those issues and in some ways it may be easier for players to form a consensus on those issues than the owners. Because there's so many different moving parts, it's a particularly hard issue to predict where it might go."

Drug testing, specifically blood-testing for HGH, continues to be addressed at these meetings.

"It's actually a positive development that drug testing no longer has to be the dominant subject of discussion. There are other things we can talk about," Weiner said.

"We talk about blood testing because it is one of the topics of the day. The commissioner's office is committed to a program where the science is 100 percent sound. I know that the Olympic scientists feel strongly about the test, but just yesterday I read a piece from a number of other respected scientists who question that one.

"There's also questions of safety as far as administering tests. There's questions of baseball players have to play at the major league level every day. Administering a test for them might be more complicated than administering tests to athletes who are competing on a less-frequent basis.

"HGH is banned under our program. No question about the commitment in that regard. Once we have a test that is scientifically valid, that can be safely administered, that can be administered to the players without interfering with their job, then we'll have a test. And I'd be surprised if the commissioner's office would tell you anything different."

Weiner estimates that talks about a new CBA will begin no later than a year from now.

"Everybody on both sides would love to be in position to complete a deal without the threat of a stoppage," he said. "I just can't tell you how it's going to play out. We understand the importance, though, of doing that to the fans, the people who work in the game and the people who follow the game."

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