According to AP, the MLBPA is investigating the possibility that baseball’s owners colluded to keep salaries down over the off season.
”We have concerns about the operation of the post-2009 free agent market,” new union head Michael Weiner said Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. ”We have been investigating that market. Our investigation is far along but not yet complete.”
Is it possible that major league owners would make the same catastrophic mistakes that they made in the 1980s? For those unfamiliar with the history, MLB owners were found guilty by an arbiter of having colluded on three separate occasions during the 1980s. As a result of the rulings, on November 4, 1990, MLB owners agreed to pay the MLBPA a sum of $280 million plus interest and distribution costs. The total cost, which took 14 years to be paid in full, amounted to over $430 million. It should also be noted that on October 24, 2006, MLB was once again forced to settle $12 million in collusion damages as part of the CBA ratification process.
Earlier in the day, I had a running dialogue with Tom Tango (of Tangotiger fame) over at his very informative www.insidethebook.com. Tango couldn’t get past the idea that the market reacted efficiently according to his projections. Unfortunately, not every MLB owner and GM thinks as rationally and scientifically as Tango. To suggest that a majority of the 30 teams similarly evaluate both past and future performance, and then similarly translate that performance into dollar values, seems a bit farfetched to me.
It remains to be seen whether the MLBPA will actually file a grievance, but if they do, it would be foolish to assume that they do not have a strong case. After all, the grievances of the 1980s were all centered on circumstantial evidence, so it’s not like a smoking gun is needed. If the MLBPA can uncover any evidence of conspiracy, or make a strong circumstantial case involving a pattern of signings, then MLB owners could find themselves considerably lighter in their pockets.