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.