The MLBPA and Major League Baseball have been snipping at each other for a couple of years now over free agency. A lot of guys have signed late — some even after camp has started — and some have muttered about collusion and the like.
To resolve this, the union and the league sat down and tried to hammer out new rules — or tweaks to old ones — governing the mechanics of free agency. Amazingly, they’ve done so with little if any rancor. They just released a statement about it. Here are the highlights:
- When players become eligible for free agency, they’re free agents. No “filing” for free agency or whatever it is they do now;
- The period during which only a free agent’s current team can sign them — the exclusivity period — has been reduced to five days. It had been 15 days;
- Earlier deadlines for teams to offer arbitration and players to accept it;
- Stricter rules — unspecified in the release — preventing collusion; and
- “Restrictions on the abilities of the Clubs, players and agents to
conduct their free agent negotiations through use of the media.”
These last two are the most interesting to me.
I take the thing about collusion to be a tacit admission by the clubs that, as the union has claimed in recent years, they were doing something fishy. I’m not sure what those things are, but I’ve heard plenty of rumors recently that — amazingly — the clubs all seem to come up with similar offers for mid-level and lower-level free agents. Could it be that everyone just uses the same metrics and the same numbers are spit out? Possible, I suppose, but Occam’s Razor suggests that teams have been comparing notes.
The thing about the media is fun. That one likely stems from complaints by the clubs and the players. I mean, it’s uncanny, is it not, how when a team is trying to part ways with a fan favorite that we suddenly hear reports of some outrageous demand by the player? It is also uncanny, is it not, that when a player is having a hard time getting what he wants, there are suddenly a bunch of reports of “mystery teams” interested in his services?
That stuff is ridiculous, of course, because you’re never going to be able to stop people from leaking things. I mean, as it is, teams would probably fire employees over the stuff they leak if they could catch them, so what possible fear could a beef with the union or the league cause? We’ll be “hearing this . . .” and “FYIing . . .” and “Sources tell me . . .” all winter, just like we always have.
But details aside, this is pretty extraordinary. Why? Because the league and the union quietly and, apparently, quite easily came to agreement over details relating to free agency. There was no yelling back and forth. There were no threats that it would become in issue in the next CBA negotiations. Mature people just had a couple of meetings and figured it out.
I bet NFL fans with their league and union could do that.