Francisco Liriano gets seven minor league contract offers on same day

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We have been loath to throw out the c-word — collusion — when discussing the current labor strife in Major League Baseball. It is a claim that’s very hard to prove, even though there are multiple examples of teams colluding against players throughout baseball history.

However, as players have spoken up about their experiences in the free agent market, several have made observations that seem more than coincidental. Earlier this month, Cubs reliever Brad Brach said, “We talked to certain teams and they told us that, ‘We have an algorithm and here’s where you fall.’ … It’s just kind of weird that all offers are the same, they come around the same time. Everybody tells you there’s an algorithm.” Brach ultimately inked a one-year, $4.35 million contract with the Cubs which includes a 2020 club option.

Two days later, Rockies infielder Mark Reynolds said he went without a contract offer for weeks. One day, while he was out playing golf, he got a call from his agent who said he had four teams offering minor league deals on the same day. Reynolds ended up picking the Rockies.

Add Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano as a data point. Via Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic, Liriano said about his contract offers, “They all came the same week, seven on them on the same day, and they were all were minor league deals, pretty much the same money.” He settled on a deal with the Pirates, which will pay him $1.8 million if he makes the major league roster.

The MLBPA filed three grievances against the owners between 1985-87. Similar to recent years, the free agent market stagnated in that three-year window. Free agents were, by and large, unable to find contracts with new teams. The owners also had an “information bank,” sharing information about their contract offers to players with each other. An arbitrator ruled in favor of the players on all three grievances. The owners ultimately had to pay $280 million in damages to the players. Marvin Miller, who was the executive director of the MLBPA, wrote that the owners’ behavior was “tantamount to fixing, not just games, but entire pennant races, including all postseason series.”

Since then, the MLBPA has alleged collusion — both unofficially and officially — on three other occasions. In 2006, the owners agreed to pay the players $12 million from the luxury tax revenue sharing funds after being accused of colluding in 2002-03. However, ownership made no admission of guilt. In 2007, the MLBPA suggested owners colluded by sharing information about free agents and conspired in order to keep free agent Alex Rodriguez’s contract down. In 2008, the MLBPA ultimately decided against filing a grievance against the owners for working with each other in order for Barry Bonds to remain unsigned. In 2007, his final season, Bonds hit .276/.480/.565 (1.045 OPS) with 28 home runs and 66 RBI in 477 plate appearances as a 42-year-old.

That multiple players this month alone have independently said their contract offers have come in bunches and all with similar figures suggests more than a mere coincidence. There is precedent for ownership to work together. Something is fishy.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.