It has been a barely-hidden undercurrent the last two years, mixed in with general angst about the current Collective Bargaining Agreement: players and agents believe there may be coordinated action among the teams to depress the prices of free agents.
In other words, the players and agents are concerned that there is some level of collusion (teams are not permitted to “act in concert” with each other) among the teams, whether explicit or cleverly implicit.
To that end, and with negotiations on the next CBA constantly on the minds of everyone in the sport, the union is going to seize upon any and every opportunity to cry foul. Even if you don’t agree with them in any given instance, you can’t really blame them, given the free agent freeze out of the last two years. They have to try to grab any leverage they can.
Hence, when Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos was unclear when talking about communication with other teams about free agency, the union leapt into action, and they’re beginning an investigation.
Here’s the statement from the MLBPA:
Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos made the following statement to media members in a conference call earlier this week:
“Every day you get more information,’’ Anthopoulos said. “And we’ve had time to connect with 27 of the clubs – obviously the Astros and (Nationals) being in the World Series, they were tied up – but we had a chance to get a sense of what the other clubs are going to look to do in free agency, who might be available in trades.”
Executive Director Tony Clark today issued the following response:
“The statements made by Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos call into question the integrity of the entire free-agent system,’’ Clark said in a statement. “The clear description of club coordination is egregious, and we have launched an immediate investigation looking into the matter.”
Me, parsing Anthopolous’s statement on its face? He was very likely saying he wanted to get a sense, generally, of what other teams were able/planning to do in free agency, as it would inform the Braves’ planning. Like, the kind of general background convos you would try to have with every single team at the start of the offseason. You don’t know how trades might come together, or how you might glean strategic information about other clubs out there – not because they are acting in concert with you, but because you’re just doing recon.
That said, man, what a terrible, terrible way to say what he was saying. In this environment? And when you know that part of what the players believe is that the collusion is more like a tacit understanding than an explicit plan? Of *course* the players are going to be suspicious that those 27 conversations effectively DID serve to help the teams collude. And of *course* the players union is going to investigate. You just gave them clear ammo. Heck, I’d start to be a little suspicious, too.
This offseason could be even more contentious than the last two, man.