Owners ratify umpires contract
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Baseball owners unanimously ratified a five-year contract with umpires yesterday, wrapping up a decade of labor peace in a sport once plagued by work stoppages.
The deal, expected to be ratified by umpires on Monday, would remove a ban on umpires appearing in consecutive World Series, according to a person with knowledge of the agreement. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because umpires had yet to vote on the pact.
The agreement also would allow management to use video to evaluate umpires and establish new programs for early retirement, a person at the meeting in Paradise Valley, Ariz., said. That person spoke on condition of anonymity because owners didn't reveal those details.
Ending the World Series restriction would allow the best umpires to work those games in repeated seasons. Removal of that provision would come after several blown calls during the 2009 postseason.
Baseball has not had a serious labor problem since 1999, when a dispute led to mass resignation by umpires, with 22 of them losing their jobs. There has been no work stoppage in the sport since 1994.
"Having lived through the work stoppages of '72, '76, '80, '81, '85, '90, '94, that you'd have 16 years of labor peace, peace with the umpires, it's one of the things I'm very proud of," commissioner Bud Selig said.
MARLINS' JOHNSON TO GET $39 MILLION DEAL
Florida Marlins ace Josh Johnson agreed yesterday to a $39 million, four-year contract, a person familiar with the negotiations said.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Marlins hadn't announced an agreement.
The 25-year-old right-hander had a career-best record of 15-5 with an ERA of 3.23 in 209 innings last season.
TOP-RANKED SERENA GAINS SYDNEY FINAL
Top-ranked Serena Williams rallied from a set and 5-2 down to beat Avarane Rezai, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4, yesterday and move into a Sydney International final against defending champion Elena Dementieva.
Williams, winner of 11 Grand Slam singles titles, will play Olympic champion Dementieva, who beat sixth-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, 6-3, 6-1.
NCAA TO VOTE ON PLAYING IN THE SAND
The future of beach volleyball as an NCAA sport is in jeopardy, with opposition arising from an unlikely source.
Coaches and administrators at traditional indoor volleyball powers like three-time defending NCAA champion Penn State, as well as half of the Pac 10, are part of a movement to remove "sand volleyball" from a list of potential varsity sports. Athletic directors complain about stressing their already stretched budgets.
A vote will be taken today on whether to spike sand volleyball. If it survives, schools could begin playing in the next academic year.
AND WHAT'S MORE ...
NBC will spread 835 hours of coverage of the Vancouver Olympics over five networks and its Olympic Web site, all of it in high definition, beginning Feb. 12. ... Atlanta Braves outfielder Melky Cabrera has agreed to a$3.1 million, one-year contract with his new team to avoid arbitration. He played for the New York Yankees last season.