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 …