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Rosenthal: teams "probably" colluded against the players, but it's a tough case to make

Apr 8, 2010, 3:14 PM EDT

Rosenthal pretty much sums up my exact thinking when it comes to the collusion stuff from the past couple of days when he says:

Do I think baseball teams engaged in collusion to hold down free-agent
salaries? Probably. Do I think the players’ union
can prove that the teams engaged in such an illegal conspiracy? Not

The key here is that there are two kinds of evidence that can make a collusion case: (1) data evidence, such as how much are people making now compared to last year and whether that makes rational sense; and (2) gumshoe evidence, such as incriminating emails, testimony from someone about how so-and-so talked to so-and-so about manipulating the market and things of that nature.

Based on what some smart people like J.C. Bradbury have pointed out there may not be much to the data case, and as I mentioned yesterday, simply being smarter and analytical about it all can led to teams valuing players at similar levels.

But based on what Rosenthal points out — and the stuff I’m hearing — there may be more to this than a mere data case, however.  All it takes is a couple of people to pull back the curtain and a collusion conspiracy — like the ones in the past — would be revealed.  It’s being suggested that such gumshoe evidence exists. Whether that’s true and whether it’s enough to make a case is still an open question.

Rosenthal, by the way, also provides a nice collusion history lesson.  The famous cases from the 1980s weren’t the only times ownership colluded to keep salaries down. The league gave the players a lump some payment in 2002 to settle threatened-but-unfiled collusion claims. Between that, the three 80s cases and the entire century of pre-free agency baseball, teams not acting in concert to keep player salaries down is far and away the exception, not the rule.

Like I said yesterday: worth watching.

  1. RJ - Apr 8, 2010 at 3:39 PM

    That’s interesting. How about the other side of the coin. Do players or agents ever do anything that artificially inflates their value. Do they lie about their health. Do they try to manipulate the process. How about going on strike half way through the season. It’s a hard argument to say baseball players are underpaid. Most of us can work our entire lifetime and not get what a baseball player gets paid for one season of play. I believe the players and agents are practicing collusion much more than the teams. Poor, poor, ballplayers.

  2. Skids - Apr 8, 2010 at 3:42 PM

    Total horsesh*t. In case the great Rosenthal hasn’t notice,there is a great recession going on. These guys are overpaid as it is, why shouldn’t they feel it a little in these times. Just because someone didn’t get a 10% raise while the rest of the country is unemployed doesn’t mean collusion. I bet the Players Union probably is paying Rosenthal and others to try to dig up garbage to try to prove it.
    I feel sorry for the players, I hope they can get by on $5 million a year versus 6.

  3. Gold Star for Robot Boy - Apr 8, 2010 at 4:09 PM

    Shorter RJ: “WAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!”

  4. Jamie - Apr 8, 2010 at 4:10 PM

    Try typing “define: collusion” into Google. You can do this with any word you don’t understand.

  5. Ben Robertson - Apr 8, 2010 at 4:14 PM

    RJ: I don’t think you understand what the word “collusion” means. Lying is not collusion, even if several people engage in it. Striking is not colludion in the legal sense. Striking is a bargaining strategy, one you are free to dislike if it pleases you. Collusion involves multiple people or groups working in concert *in secret*, in this case to artificially set a price on a commodity. Striking is hardly secret and does not set a price, although it may propose one. Lying does not involve the level of conspiracy necessary for something to be collusion, although collusion may involve lying. And while we’re on the subject of “poor” anyone, are you implying that the owners are put upon here? They’re worth more than the ballplayers. That whole line of reasoning is a non-starter. What difference does it make what you earn? Should everyone who earns more stop asking for raises? Where do we set that bar? Ballplayers only make what ownership is willing to pay. They should ask for what they want. Ownership has to say yes or no. In this case, however, ownership is trying to get our of its responsibility by creating a situation in which they don’t have to judge a market and make a choice.
    Oh, and by the way: striking and bargaining: not illegal. Collusion: is.
    “been frenched”

  6. Amol - Apr 8, 2010 at 6:29 PM

    This would be a perfectly valid argument if this recession were actually impacting baseball. However, revenue was actually up last year, and that money has to go somewhere. You may feel that players are overpaid, but it’s not like they’re taking that money from laid-off auto workers; they’re taking it from the owners. Personally, I’d rather see Johnny Damon get an extra million than Jeff Loria.
    ReCaptcha: percent rockmore

  7. Joey B - Apr 8, 2010 at 7:29 PM

    There really isn’t that much to the article. For example-
    “Was collusion the reason that Red Sox right-hander John Lackey and Brewers lefty Randy Wolf were the only starting pitchers to receive contracts of at least three years last winter?”
    It’s really as broad as it can be. At a minimum, how many SPs deserved at least three years? You only had two type A’s. If one of the first questions out of the union is ‘why not more’, I could defend the case.

  8. RJ - Apr 8, 2010 at 8:01 PM

    Oh my, my. Some people feel ballplayers are underfed and underpaid. Forgive me for thinking otherwise. Obviously they must be some of the most exploited members of the American work force. And for me to compare their income to average Americans, that’s blasphemy. Ballplayer income should only be compared to those that are in their class, not to the average working stiff. It’s not like their salarys has any direct correlation to ticket prices. After all, teams can pay any salarys they want and not raise ticket prices, can’t they. And for me to mention the strikes these ballplayers have conducted, simply bad form on my part. I’m sure we all like to watch a good season ending strike every Semptember. Collusion, well of course ballplayers nor their agents would ever practice collusion, would they. Just by the very definition of the word that would be impossible, wouldn’t it. They couldn’t enter into any secret agreements for fraudulent, illegal, or deceitful purposes, could they. I don’t care what ballplayers get paid, I’m just saying there are two sides to every story. Neither side is innocent and both sides engage in unsavory behavior. Ultimately, salarys will not come out of owners pockets but out of fans pockets, even if your team is a perpetual loser. Look that up Brainiac.

  9. Andy L - Apr 8, 2010 at 8:13 PM

    “Collusion, well of course ballplayers nor their agents would ever practice collusion, would they. Just by the very definition of the word that would be impossible, wouldn’t it.”
    Um, yes. It would be impossible. Employees can’t collude. Only employers. This was already explained to you, but you are clearly uninterested in definitions. You only want to make your point. Ben Robertson pointed out that you can disagree with striking if you want. You can call players overpaid if you want too. But it’s not illegal. Owners colluding is illegal. Now please shut up.

  10. RJ - Apr 8, 2010 at 9:32 PM

    I think you miss the point Andy, and the definition of collusion. You sound like a person whose sympathies are with the ballplayers. Fine. I also wrote “I don’t care what ballplayers get paid.” Let me give you just a few definitions of collusion. ” A secret activity undertaken by two or more people for the pupose of fraud”. “A secret agreement between two or more parties for a fraudulent, illegal, or deceitful purpose”.” A secret agreement between opponents at law in order to obtain a judicial decision for some wrongful or improper purpose”.”Agreement on a secret plot”.”Connivance, agreement, cahoot”.”Arrangement, agreement”. Those are some definitions of collusion. Let me give you an example. “Collusion may involve cooperation between competing sellers, in the form of an agreement, express or tacit, limiting competition, or a merger or other means to raise the market price above the competitive level”. “Employees can’t collude” Really. From the definition it only takes two to collude. And you say no ballplayer ever engaged in fraudulent, illegal, or deceitful activities. Really. And none of them tried to raise their market price above the competitive level. My mistake. Obviously I didn’t understand the question. “Only employers can collude”,OK, gotcha. I didn’t read that in any of the definitions, but if you say so it must be right.

  11. RJ - Apr 8, 2010 at 10:38 PM

    Try typing “define: collusion” into Google. You can do this with any word you don’t understand.

  12. JR - Apr 8, 2010 at 10:42 PM

    To me, it just seems GM’s have realized that mediocre players can be easily replaced. With no real affect in the standings. Star players are still getting big contracts.

  13. bugjackblue - Apr 8, 2010 at 10:43 PM

    I just love the working class heroes who claim professional athletes are overpaid. What’s the matter? The $8/hr you make for the shoddy work you do is not enough to suit your exalted self-image and you resent those with more marketable and valuable skills? Newsflash: most of those who complain about this sort of thing should be grateful for their $8/hr. You are easily replaced (and probably will soon be.) Unless your union can help you out. What’s that? You don’t have a union? You think unions are un-American? Okay then, starve. You’ll never learn…

  14. Busted - Apr 9, 2010 at 2:07 AM

    What is your point. Are you against working people. You don’t think they are owed any respect. It sounds to me like you really look down on them. What makes you better than anyone else. How pitiful. Where did you read something anti-union on these posts. You sound like some kind of elitist snob.

  15. Van - Apr 9, 2010 at 3:34 AM

    Do you believe anything you say or are you just making it up as you go. If you are going to respond to someone’s post at least try to do it in context.

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