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Associated Press
10/22/2006 6:00:57 PM

DETROIT (AP) - Baseball players and owners have reached a tentative agreement on a five-year labour contract, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press on Sunday.

The deal, struck during bargaining in New York on Friday night and Saturday, is subject to the sides putting the agreement in writing, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the agreement had not been finalized.

In the often bitter history of baseball labour relations, reaching agreement before a contract's expiration has to be considered a milestone. The current deal, set to expire Dec. 19, was agreed to in August 2002, just hours before players were set to strike.

Lawyers were working on drafting language for the new deal Sunday, and hoped to put the finishing touches on it Monday or Tuesday. Once that happened, commissioner Bud Selig would announce it in St. Louis at the World Series.

''Baseball is at an all-time high point right now,'' Detroit's Craig Monroe said before Game 2 of the World Series. ''You've got low-market teams doing well and different teams winning every year. Getting this done couldn't have come at a better time.''

Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, declined comment. Union head Donald Fehr did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.

Most of the key provisions of the current contract will be continued with minor modifications, such as revenue sharing and the luxury tax. With the luxury tax set to expire on Dec. 19, there was pressure on management to make a deal to ensure that the 2007 season would be played with the tax in place.

''I think we're all for certainty and not going through a winter of wondering what's going to be going on,'' Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. ''I applaud the powers with the union and the MLB. Helps us go about our business.''

Record economic success helped produce an agreement with no public rancour. Commissioner Bud Selig said last week that he estimated the sport will produce US$5.2 billion in revenue this year. It was about $3.6 billion in 2001.

Selig credited the changes in the 2002 agreement with making more teams competitive.

''I had dreams of things getting better but, no, in many ways this has exceeded my fondest expectations,'' he said Tuesday night in St. Louis. ''This sport has more parity than ever. We have more parity than any other sport. It's remarkable.''

An agreement had been anticipated by officials on both sides in recent days.

''This is a setting of success. It's a platform, a stage that's been built through very difficult times,'' agent Scott Boras said Sunday. ''To do anything to alter that success would be something that wouldn't be in the best interests of the game.''

The huge influx of money smoothed negotiations. The average player salary was $1.1 million in 1995, the first season after the 7½-month strike that wiped out the 1994 World Series. It rose to just under $2.3 million in 2002 and will be about $2.7 million this year. The average likely will top $3 million next year or in 2008.

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