In another sign of a brewing labor battle in baseball, the players’ union sent out a warning flare this week that it is not going to wait for another deep freeze to set in on the free agent market before speaking out.
The MLB Players Association announced Wednesday that it has opened an investigation into comments made by Atlanta general manager Alex Anthopoulos on a conference call Monday about how the Braves had contacted 27 other teams recently and “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.”
GMs speak among themselves all the time, but when teams share information in order to act in concert when it comes to signing or not signing free agents, that’s when talk enters collusion territory. And as owners learned in the 1980s — when they lost three collusion cases — and in more recent settlements as well, teaming up with each other to control the market is a no-no.
And with the last couple of offseasons seeing a considerable cool-down in the free agent market, players union executive director Tony Clark did not take Anthopoulos’s quote as innocent, business-as-usual stuff.
“The statements made by Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos call into the question the integrity of the entire free-agent system,” said Clark’s statement. “The clear description of Club coordination is egregious, and we have launched an immediate investigation looking into the matter.”
A few hours later, the Braves tweeted out a statement from Anthopoulos in which he apologized for any “confusion” that could suggest there was collusion.
“In advance of the General Managers meetings, I called around to Clubs to explore the possibility of potential off-season trades,” Anthopoulos was quoted as saying. “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 Wednesday, I misspoke and apologize for any confusion.”
MLB did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The current collective bargaining agreement between the players and owners expires after the 2021 season. Last spring, the sides agreed to re-engage in substantive economic negotiations.
Running up numbers
The Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge campaign announced it had exceeded $100 million raised for cancer research since the effort began in 1990. The campaign involves Boston Marathon runners raising money. In the first year, $100,000 was raised; last year, $6.6 million was raised. The single-year high was in 2014, the year after the Marathon bombings, when $8.3 million was raised . . . Former slugger David Ortiz presented a check of $500,000 on behalf of the Red Sox Foundation and Live Nation to the Boston Arts Academy. The academy’s foundation is trying to raise $30 million over the next five years in its “Building Our Future” campaign.
Shopping in NY
According to the New York Post, the Silver Lake investment firm is attempting to buy “major stakes” in both the New York Knicks and New York Rangers. Glenn Hutchins, a part-owner of the Celtics, is the retired co-founder of the Silver Lake firm . . . New Balance’s appeal of the London High Court’s decision that the shoe and apparel company had not matched a bid by Nike to become the uniform supplier of the Liverpool Football Club was dismissed, according to the Liverpool Echo . . . Ballots were still being counted Thursday, but voters in Colorado likely approved by a narrow margin a ballot proposal for sports betting in the state to begin next May. Annual state tax revenue estimates are at $29 million, with the money earmarked for water conservation projects.
You make the call
In a poll out of Seton Hall’s Stillman School of Business, fans gave their highest approval rating for officiating in major sports to baseball. Sixty-four percent of respondents rated major league umpiring as “good,” with only 3 percent thinking it’s “terrible.”
For the NBA, it was 49 percent good, 13 percent terrible; the NFL was at 48 percent good, 27 percent terrible; the NHL at 44 percent good, 6 percent terrible; college basketball at 48 percent good, 9 percent terrible; and college football at 53 percent good, 12 percent terrible.
Two side notes to the poll: 62 percent of respondents believe reactions to officiating in the NFL are influenced by sports betting. And perhaps encouragingly, the split between Democrats and Republicans on these opinions was minimal, varying mostly by only 2 or 3 percentage points.