Well here’s a story I didn’t expect to read this morning: according to Ken Rosenthal the MLBPA is letting it be known that they’re not happy about baseball officials discussing free agent deals in the media, and they’re starting to throw around the c-word:
The players’ union, sources say, believes that some recent statements by club officials and other baseball employees violate the collective-bargaining agreement.
Rules in the CBA state that team officials cannot communicate through the media the substance of economic terms discussed by players and clubs – the facts of an offer, or whether the club will decline to make an offer.
The rules, designed to prevent clubs from influencing a free agent’s market value, were adopted after the 2010-11 offseason as part of the “anti-collusion” language in the CBA.
The union, sources say, had concerns about potential violations the past two offseasons, and already has taken exception with a number of specific comments attributed to management representatives in media reports this fall.
Now, I’m a union guy and all, but this looks like pretty weak sauce to me. Rosenthal passes along four specific examples that have the union up in arms, of which three seem like pretty clear violations of the language in the CBA, but the problem is figuring out what exactly would properly be done about it. On the one hand, I would imagine that any sort of actual complaint would entail MLB protesting that the players, though their agents, aren’t shy about negotiating through the media when it suits their ends, and they’d have a very fair point. On the other hand, taken quite seriously a strict adherence to this rule would likely lead to the shuttering of the entire hot stove/rumor mill season, an outcome that won’t serve anyone’s best interests in the long run. This is all fans have to keep them engaged with baseball right now, and in the modern media age keeping your fans engaged with your business in the offseason is a must.
Moreover, though collusion was a huge deal in the 1980’s (Marvin Miller rightly equated it with fixing games) that continued to have an impact on the sport for decades through acrimonious labor relations, the union’s more recent invocations of the term have been pretty silly. Off the top of my head, the two most recent examples I can think of involve accusing the owners of conspiring against Alex Rodriguez before he signed the largest contract of the history of the sport in 2007, and accusing teams of conspiring to deny Barry Bonds a contract in the 2008-09 offseason. Because obviously there was no other way 30 teams could decide they wanted no part of an over 40 hitter who was reviled by a large segment of baseball fans and was staring down federal criminal charges at the time.
This current case isn’t nearly as ridiculous as those two, but I doubt that even the union expects to really pursue it. More likely, they’re pulling out the c-word as a bit of saber rattling in the direction of the clubs, trying to get them to at least tamp down on speaking frankly about their free agency plans.