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IT’S BACK — MAYBE

By Murray Chass

April 13, 2014

Did someone say collusion? That’s a significant word in baseball history not heard for a while, but the smell of it has penetrated the Major League Baseball air and needs to be addressed.

Without invoking the dreaded word, Tony Clark, executive director of the players’ union, raised the issue of collusion Friday in a statement about unsigned free agents. Rob Manfred, MLB’s chief operating officer, quickly rejected Clark’s suggestion in his own statement.

But as much as I respect Manfred, I have to say his response to Clark’s statement was vividly reminiscent of Barry Rona’s reaction in 1985 any time I wrote an article suggesting that the owners were colluding against free agents to prevent them from changing teams for lucrative salaries.

Rona, the clubs’ chief labor official, would react with an astonished laugh of incredulity and derision, in effect saying, “Are you kidding? You gotta be kidding.”

Two arbitrators and three grievance hearings later, Rona and his employers learned that they were the ones kidding in their outraged denials of having acted in concert against free agents in violation of the collective bargaining agreement the two sides had written only months before the owners engaged in collusion the first time.

After protracted negotiations, the two sides in 1990 agreed on a $280 million settlement that some observers felt was too favorable to the losers.

Fay Vincent, a man of honesty and candor, became commissioner two years after the period of collusion, became the first member of management – and today remains one of only three – to express publicly his belief that the clubs did violate the collective bargaining agreement and also said the owners’ act of conspiracy poisoned their relationship with the players.

Sadly, Vincent’s successor, Bud Selig, was one of those owners and was also head of their labor relations committee, but he has never acknowledged the owners’ guilt. What, us collude? You gotta be kidding.

The latest suggestion of collusion arose last Friday in a statement issued by union leader Clark “regarding recent public remarks by Club officials about Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales that clearly violate the parties’ collectively bargained agreements.”

“I am angered …

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ANYBODY HERE NEED PITCHING?

By Murray Chass

April 6, 2014

When Gabe Paul was George Steinbrenner’s general manager with the New York Yankees in the 1970s, he had a collection of favorite aphorisms that he expressed frequently.

When rain was delaying a game and he was asked if he thought it would stop raining, he would smile and say, “It always has.” Disdainful of people who lounged in bed late into the morning, he pronounced that “only whores make money in bed.” More appropriate to baseball, Paul often declared, “You can never have too much pitching.”

Jim Fregosi, a former player and manager, agreed with Paul at least on the last point. “If you have six pitchers, you have four,” Fregosi used to say.

Frank Wren, the Atlanta Braves’ general manager, recalled Fregosi’s remark the other day when …

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THIS IS ONE HORSE THEY WON’T SHOOT

By Murray Chass

April 3, 2014

If Don Baylor were a horse, they would have shot him, as in the title of the 1969 Jane Fonda film, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”

Baylor might have been considered a horse in his playing days, but he apparently has turned into a broken-down old coach. How else explain that on his team’s opening night he broke a leg catching Vladimir Guerrero’s ceremonial first pitch?

Before the curtain goes up on Broadway shows, it is customary for the actors to tell one another, “Break a leg,” but they don’t mean it literally. It’s a figurative way of saying “Have a good show.”

But Baylor, their hitting coach, really broke a leg, and the Anaheim Angels didn’t even have a good game. They had a bad game, losing to the Seattle Mariners, 10-3.

In his 17-year playing career, Baylor was as tough as …

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