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Wednesday, November 06, 2019

MLBPA launching investigation after Braves GM’s statement suggests collusion

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark announced on Wednesday that his organization is launching an investigation into statements made by Atlanta Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos this week regarding free agency.

Per the MLBPA statement, Anthopoulos told reporters that he had been in contact with other teams regarding free agency.

“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.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 06, 2019 at 09:40 PM | 44 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: alex anthopoulos

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   1. The Duke Posted: November 07, 2019 at 08:30 AM (#5899322)
I knew the moment I saw that quote a couple days ago, it was going to be trouble.
   2. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 07, 2019 at 09:18 AM (#5899333)
Big trouble. Teams can't discuss what they're going to do on Free Agents. That's like United and American talking about what they're plans are for fare between NY and Chicago.
   3. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: November 07, 2019 at 09:43 AM (#5899339)
Did he and Mulvaney take the same Media 101 course?

   4. manchestermets Posted: November 07, 2019 at 09:53 AM (#5899343)
What (if any) remedies are available in the event of collusion being proven?
   5. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 07, 2019 at 10:00 AM (#5899345)
What (if any) remedies are available in the event of collusion being proven?

The MLBPA can seek monetary damages. MLB paid the players $280M last time.
   6. Paul d mobile Posted: November 07, 2019 at 10:11 AM (#5899352)
Here's what AA said as a follow-up:

"In advance of the general managers meetings, I called around to clubs to explore the possibility of potential offseason trades," he said. "At no time during any of these calls was there discussion of individual free agents or the Braves' intentions with respect to the free-agent market. To the extent I indicated otherwise during my media availability on Monday, I misspoke and apologize for any confusion."
   7. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 07, 2019 at 11:14 AM (#5899371)
Here's what AA said as a follow-up:

"In advance of the general managers meetings, I called around to clubs to explore the possibility of potential offseason trades," he said. "At no time during any of these calls was there discussion of individual free agents or the Braves' intentions with respect to the free-agent market. To the extent I indicated otherwise during my media availability on Monday, I misspoke and apologize for any confusion."


Pretty sure there are no backsies on statements against interest.
   8. winnipegwhip Posted: November 07, 2019 at 11:15 AM (#5899372)
AA should release a statement saying he was discussing the NFL Fantasy League between the General Managers
   9. PreservedFish Posted: November 07, 2019 at 11:19 AM (#5899376)
So what are they allowed to say?

GM1: "Hey, you interested in my extra shortstop?"
GM2: "Nah, we're probably gonna look to free agency first, but keep in touch just in case."
GM1: "Cool bro."

It would be nearly impossible for them to talk without this sort of thing coming up.
   10. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 07, 2019 at 11:24 AM (#5899378)
So what are they allowed to say?

GM1: "Hey, you interested in my extra shortstop?"
GM2: "Nah, we're probably gonna look to free agency first, but keep in touch just in case."
GM1: "Cool bro."

It would be nearly impossible for them to talk without this sort of thing coming up.


Of course you know that's not the limit. I think once they talk about individual FAs, they've crossed the line.

I would bet heavily that they're actually talking years and dollars. We've been down this road before. The teams collude every time they think they can get away with it.
   11. Nasty Nate Posted: November 07, 2019 at 11:25 AM (#5899381)
It would be nearly impossible for them to talk without this sort of thing coming up.
Not really. Even though what you wrote doesn't seem to break any rules, it could just as effectively have been:

GM1: "Hey, you interested in my extra shortstop?"
GM2: "Nah ... but keep in touch just in case."
GM1: "Cool bro."
   12. jmurph Posted: November 07, 2019 at 11:30 AM (#5899385)
I would bet heavily that they're actually talking years and dollars. We've been down this road before. The teams collude every time they think they can get away with it.

I would imagine we all pretty much unanimously agree with you on this point, it's just that they're (probably?) smart enough to not do it over email.
   13. PreservedFish Posted: November 07, 2019 at 11:31 AM (#5899386)
I would bet heavily that they're actually talking years and dollars. We've been down this road before. The teams collude every time they think they can get away with it.


Oh, this wouldn't surprise me at all.

I'm just wondering where the line is. It's probably somewhat blurry.
   14. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 07, 2019 at 11:39 AM (#5899390)


The MLBPA can seek monetary damages. MLB paid the players $280M last time.


Yay, we're getting two new expansion teams so those fees can pay the next settlement!
   15. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 07, 2019 at 11:48 AM (#5899398)
I would imagine we all pretty much unanimously agree with you on this point, it's just that they're (probably?) smart enough to not do it over email.

Yeah, but you only need a couple of disgruntled ex-employees to spill the beans. If I were the MLBPA, I'd have my investigators talking to Taubman. Whistleblowers often get a chunk of the damages they uncover.
   16. calming him down with his 57i66135 Posted: November 07, 2019 at 12:00 PM (#5899407)
The MLBPA can seek monetary damages. MLB paid the players $280M last time.

more immediately, this opens the floodgates for MLBPA to seek discovery in court. subpoenas for testimony, for records; MLBPA now has a path for unearthing a lot of the things that MLB would rather keep buried.


if you followed colin kaepernick's lawsuit against the NFL, proving collusion isn't easy, however, once NFL owners started getting dragged into court, having to testify under oath, the NFL caved pretty quickly. i think MLB would be in a similar position here.



the MLBPA has become very weak over the last 15 years, but this is a chance for them to gain some of that ground back since it doesn't require support from rank and file members (as a strike/lockout would). if MLBPA cannot rake MLB over the coals here, it's better off dead (decertified).

   17. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 07, 2019 at 12:07 PM (#5899411)

more immediately, this opens the floodgates for MLBPA to seek discovery in court. subpoenas for testimony, for records; MLBPA now has a path for unearthing a lot of the things that MLB would rather keep buried.


if you followed colin kaepernick's lawsuit against the NFL, proving collusion isn't easy, however, once NFL owners started getting dragged into court, having to testify under oath, the NFL caved pretty quickly. i think MLB would be in a similar position here.


Has the judiciary moved to a more pro-business stance in the last 30 years? Also, IIRC, the 80s collusion case was fairly blatant with Ueberroth basically saying "don't sign FA", if teams were a bit more cagey about it now, I'm wondering if it would be a much more difficult case time around.
   18. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 07, 2019 at 12:31 PM (#5899427)

Has the judiciary moved to a more pro-business stance in the last 30 years?


I think it depends on the particular issue. Case law is messy. This is also going to be more of a straight forward contract case, based on the agreement between MLBPA and MLB, not a typical worker/consumer vs business case.
   19. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 07, 2019 at 02:05 PM (#5899481)
A legitimate way for a GM to talk to another GM about something related to free agency would be to ask whether or not a team plans to pick up an option or make an arb tender, as a prelude to a possible trade for that player.
   20. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: November 07, 2019 at 02:14 PM (#5899487)
I don't think mentioning individual FAs necessarily crosses the line. They come up in trade talks.

GM1: "want my extra SS?"
GM2: "why would I want him? Didi is a free agent that I can get for free."
   21. Walt Davis Posted: November 07, 2019 at 02:37 PM (#5899497)
GM2: "Nah ... but keep in touch just in case."

or "I'll keep that in mind and get back to you if we're interested."

GM2: "why would I want him? Didi is a free agent that I can get for free."

We're all human but why would GMs talk like us mooks on an internet message board? GM2 doesn't need to explain his reasons to GM1 and isn't trying to look clever.

It's very easy to have this conversation without conveying info about FAs and, as professionals bound by a CBA and with legal precedent, no GM should have the least bit of trouble sticking to the rules. It's also very easy to have this conversation within legal bounds while conveying info about FAs so they should be good at that too.

Ask yourself -- what competitive advantage does team A gain by sharing its FA intentions with team B ... or with the public? None that I see. This is about cost-control and managing PR. Why would any of us defend this behavior?
   22. The Duke Posted: November 07, 2019 at 04:56 PM (#5899555)
21. Completely agree
   23. Dr. Vaux Posted: November 07, 2019 at 05:29 PM (#5899565)
It's a far cry from owners agreeing not to sign any free-agents (what they had to pay out for) to owners discussing with each other in general terms their upcoming budget strategies, which include the signing of free-agents. Someone might think those are both instances of collusion, but they're certainly not instances of the same thing.
   24. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 07, 2019 at 05:45 PM (#5899570)
It's a far cry from owners agreeing not to sign any free-agents (what they had to pay out for) to owners discussing with each other in general terms their upcoming budget strategies, which include the signing of free-agents.

Yes, but it's harder to prove the former than the latter, and when you're dealing with an organization that has already done the former once in the past, you don't typically give them much benefit of the doubt.
   25. The Yankee Clapper Posted: November 07, 2019 at 07:02 PM (#5899582)
It's a far cry from owners agreeing not to sign any free-agents (what they had to pay out for) to owners discussing with each other in general terms their upcoming budget strategies, which include the signing of free-agents. Someone might think those are both instances of collusion, but they're certainly not instances of the same thing.
You’re saying that MLB teams aren’t as blatant about their collusion? That may be true, but when you to try to gain an advantage by getting as close as possible to the line of what is legal, you run the risk that those who decide these things have a different view of where the line is. After being found guilty of collusion three separate times, MLB shouldn’t expect to get the benefit of the doubt here - they just don’t have much credibility.
   26. McCoy Posted: November 07, 2019 at 10:18 PM (#5899609)
Walt forgets that GMs are humans. Of course they're going to use more words than yes and no. They're absolutely going to chit chat.
   27. McCoy Posted: November 07, 2019 at 10:20 PM (#5899611)
Actually the last time they paid out 12 million dollars because of collusion.
   28. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: November 07, 2019 at 10:50 PM (#5899615)
GM1: Please come to our meeting. We have obtained information that will allow you to save money on free agents. This is of course, part of Manfred’s plan to keep a larger share of profits among the owners.
GM2: If it’s what you say, I love it, especially later in the offseason.
#nocollusion
   29. Omineca Greg Posted: November 08, 2019 at 07:10 AM (#5899632)
1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4

Ball of Collusion
That's what the league is today
Hey, hey.  

Salary fixing, interests conflicting
The rat bastard GM, and his assistants helping him
Kinked demand curve, not getting what you deserve
Conspiracy, complicity, contract talks hide duplicity
Players all over the league are shouting "Won't somebody sign me?!"

And the band played on

Anti-trust exemption, reserve clause oppression
Marvin Miller convincing Seitz, it's time for players' labour rights
The offers should be fat, but instead they're looking thin
Manfred carrying the owners' water just like he's Gunga Din

Run...Run...Run...

But you sure can't hide!

Ball of Collusion
Oh yeah, that's what the league is today
Hey, hey.  

Conscious parallelism in the air, fraudulent artifice is everywhere
Salaries going nowhere fast, Taylor Swift's new download's a gas
And the only contracts ever offered are arbitration buy-outs

And the band played on

Sayin' ball of Collusion
That's what the league is today, hey, hey
Let me hear ya, let me hear ya
Let me hear ya, let me hear ya, let me hear ya
Sayin' ball of Collusion...

Hey.

Hey.  
   30. Greg Pope Posted: November 08, 2019 at 11:33 AM (#5899701)
Of course you know that's not the limit. I think once they talk about individual FAs, they've crossed the line.

He said that they've talked to all of the other clubs. Obviously that's fine. He said that they "had a chance to get a sense of" the other clubs. This doesn't mean that they talked about individual players. It could be exactly what PF said. Maybe there was more, but the statement doesn't mean that there was.
   31. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 08, 2019 at 11:44 AM (#5899708)
He said that they've talked to all of the other clubs. Obviously that's fine. He said that they "had a chance to get a sense of" the other clubs. This doesn't mean that they talked about individual players. It could be exactly what PF said. Maybe there was more, but the statement doesn't mean that there was.

Well yes. He didn't admit colluding in detail, but he admitted behavior that's highly suggestive of collusion. Certainly it's enough evidence to investigate.
   32. Lassus Posted: November 08, 2019 at 11:50 AM (#5899710)
OG - I hope that's the Love and Rockets version. #fightme
   33. . Posted: November 08, 2019 at 11:55 AM (#5899714)
This doesn't mean that they talked about individual players.


It wouldn't matter if they had. Teams are prohibited from acting in concert with respect to free agents. They aren't prohibited from talking about individual players who are free agents, and indeed, if I'm making my whiteboards of the other teams' offseason rosters with an eye toward seeing who might be available, I'd be derelict in my duties if I didn't seek out information about whether teams were either looking to keep their own, or were looking outside to add.

And moreover, when GMs talk with each other about potential trades, they aren't engaged in some TV drama hide the ball deal with each other, (a) because that's not how people deal with each other in the real world; and (b) they have to do business with each other down the road. So to use a simplistic example, if GM 1 starts saying, "What would you give me for Starting Rightfielder 1," GM 2 would ask something like, "Why are you offering me him, he's your starting RF and had a good year ... is he hurt or something?" and then GM 1 would say, "We're probably going to go outside this winter." And from that, GM 2 can easily infer that GM1 is going to take a run at Best Free Agent Rightfielder 1. Even if GM1 said, "We're going to take a run at Best Free Agent Rightfielder 1, so I'm shopping Starting Rightfielder 1" there wouldn't be a thing wrong with that and it wouldn't be remotely suggestive of "collusion."
   34. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: November 08, 2019 at 01:58 PM (#5899771)
We're all human but why would GMs talk like us mooks on an internet message board?

Why would an assistant GM scream “Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so f------ glad we got Osuna!”?

Sounds like a mook to me.

   35. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 08, 2019 at 02:29 PM (#5899787)
They aren't prohibited from talking about individual players who are free agents, and indeed, if I'm making my whiteboards of the other teams' offseason rosters with an eye toward seeing who might be available, I'd be derelict in my duties if I didn't seek out information about whether teams were either looking to keep their own, or were looking outside to add.

You should try to figure out what other teams are looking to do with respect to free agents, yes, but you should also be playing things close to the vest with respect to your own intentions. What good reason would there be to share your intentions, other than in order to collude?

I mean, yeah I'm sure that guys occasionally slip up and say things about free agents because they're human beings. That kind of mistake can happen in any business. But when a GM says that he's spoken to 27 other clubs and understands their plans in free agency, that's not just a slip up. Maybe it's not collusion, but it does raise concerns.
   36. . Posted: November 08, 2019 at 02:34 PM (#5899790)
You should try to figure out what other teams are looking to do with respect to free agents, yes, but you should also be playing things close to the vest with respect to your own intentions. What good reason would there be to share your intentions, other than in order to collude?


Well there was one right there in my hypo: to convince your potential trading partner that you're actually serious about trading Starting Rightfielder 1 and that you aren't doing it because he's damaged goods or roiding or doing blow or beating his wife.

But when a GM says that he's spoken to 27 other clubs and understands their plans in free agency, that's not just a slip up. Maybe it's not collusion, but it does raise concerns.


It's talking his book. He's bragging about his intelligence gathering prowess and how plugged in he is and therefore his ability to make better transactions on behalf of his team.
   37. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 08, 2019 at 02:39 PM (#5899792)
Primey for #28
   38. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 08, 2019 at 02:44 PM (#5899794)

It's talking his book. He's bragging about his intelligence gathering prowess and how plugged in he is and therefore his ability to make better transactions on behalf of his team.

Right, but I'm saying I believe those 27 conversations happened. Do you, or you think he's just BSing?
   39. . Posted: November 08, 2019 at 03:22 PM (#5899807)
Right, but I'm saying I believe those 27 conversations happened. Do you, or you think he's just BSing?


I do think they happened. If I had his job, I certainly would have had the conversations. It's my job. I agree with you that paranoid lawyer types would recommend that he not talk about them in public so explicitly, but substantively there's nothing amiss in them. His saying he had them and got good stuff from them is him saying he's doing his job well.

I'd bet things like Farhan Zaidi telling another FO/GM type on another team, something like "Yeah, it's going well so far but Larry's gonna make me bid on Harper" happen all the time. That's not remotely evidence of collusion. It's fraternal industry shop talk.
   40. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 08, 2019 at 03:43 PM (#5899810)

I agree with you that paranoid lawyer types would recommend that he not talk about them in public so explicitly, but substantively there's nothing amiss in them.

I would think sharing this type of information is collusion if it goes beyond simple platitudes like "Oh yeah, we're going to be active in free agency this year". I.e. if it gets down to specific players or even positions it's definitely problematic. If all the teams know which other teams are going to bid (and more importantly, which are not) it will have the effect of depressing player salaries. Remember that for any given player it's not a 30-team market, it might just be a few teams playing. They don't have to all agree not to bid to suppress salaries.

Certainly the union would view it this way, and I'm pretty confident an arbitrator / judge would view it that way as well. As I said earlier, MLB has not earned the benefit of the doubt here.
   41. . Posted: November 08, 2019 at 03:54 PM (#5899815)
I would think sharing this type of information is collusion if it goes beyond simple platitudes like "Oh yeah, we're going to be active in free agency this year". I.e. if it gets down to specific players or even positions it's definitely problematic.


Without some evidence that the two organizations acted in concert, there's no evidence of collusion. Me telling you I intend to bid on Harper this winter and you saying nothing or nodding your head and noting it shows no evidence of us acting in concert.(*) Not only isn't there any evidence we acted in concert, there's not even any evidence I sought to have us act in concert.

(*) I use the term "concert" because that's the CBA term. This isn't a big long legalistic thing, it's simply:

E. Individual Nature of Rights

(1) The utilization or non-utilization of rights under Article XIX(A)(2) and Article XX is an individual matter to be determined solely by each Player and each Club for his or its own benefit. Players shall not act in concert with other Players and Clubs shall not act in concert with other Clubs.


   42. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 08, 2019 at 05:35 PM (#5899844)
Without some evidence that the two organizations acted in concert, there's no evidence of collusion. Me telling you I intend to bid on Harper this winter and you saying nothing or nodding your head and noting it shows no evidence of us acting in concert.(*)

Me sharing that I *don't* intend to bid on Harper and you sharing that you *don't* intend to bid on Machado is acting in concert by any reasonable definition, especially if teams are doing it on a larger or more systematic scale. I agree, one team having a few conversations is not necessarily evidence of anything, but I'd think it opens up an avenue for discovery.
   43. . Posted: November 08, 2019 at 06:00 PM (#5899850)
Deciding to do the same thing independently and then informing someone else of that independently-arrived at decision isn't acting in concert. Acting in concert is making some kind of pre-action agreement to do something. It doesn't even have to be the same thing. "Hey, let's agree that I'll bid on Harper and you'll stay out of the bidding." Acting in concert. "Hey, let's agree that I'll bid on Harper but not Machado and you'll bid on Machado but not Harper." Acting in concert. "Hey, we're not bidding on Harper. Hey, we're not bidding on Machado." Not acting in concert. "Hey, we're not bidding on Harper. Hey, we're not either." Not acting in concert.
   44. Greg Pope Posted: November 08, 2019 at 06:07 PM (#5899853)
Me sharing that I *don't* intend to bid on Harper and you sharing that you *don't* intend to bid on Machado is acting in concert by any reasonable definition, especially if teams are doing it on a larger or more systematic scale.

I see what you're saying, but don't we see things like this in the press all the time? If Theo Epstein tells a reporter that the Cubs aren't going after Gerrit Cole, that's not anything actionable by the union, is it? If he did it in June, then I think it's an issue since Cole is under contract for the Astros.

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