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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.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Mets 6, Nationals 4: Carlos Gómez hit the big blast here, socking an eighth inning, go-ahead three-run homer. This after the Nats themselves had come behind following Dave Martinez getting ejected. Maybe there’s something to the whole idea of the Nats playing better without Martinez, but it’s trumped by the unreliability of the Washington bullpen, who would probably even make Casey Stengel look bad. So it would seem, at the moment anyway, the conditions for testing that idea are scientifically are not optimal. Washington should probably fix both of those things, though. Maybe they’ll have something if the season is not already lost by now.

Now let’s watch Carlos Gomez (a) lose his shoe running first to third; and (b) be all Carlos Gomez-y on that home run trot:

Pirates 14, Rockies 6: Pittsburgh was leading 8-0 when the Rockies put up a six-run sixth to make things interesting, but a big seventh featuring homers from Josh BellBryan Reynolds and Starling Marte put things back out of reach. Josh Bell on the season: .339/.408/.718 and he’s on pace for 55 homers and 162 RBI. Holy Moly.

Yankees 6, Orioles 5: New York took a 5-1 lead into the eighth and it looked like another cakewalk, but the O’s at least made it interesting with a four-run eighth to tie things up. Brandon Hyde sent reliever Mychal Givens out for the top of the ninth and . . . it didn’t go well. Well, it went well at first, as Givens struck out the first two batters he faced. Then:

If I’m an Orioles fan I suppose I’m happy that game-losing rally didn’t come via even more dinger — at least in the ninth; Clint Frazier and Luke Voit homered earlier — but I suppose that’s cold comfort. Hell, at this point of the season if I’m an Orioles fan I probably want dingers because the infamy of shattering the all-time single season home runs allowed record is gonna be a season highlight. Of sorts.

Red Sox 8, Blue Jays 2: Close for the first two thirds of the game but, unfortunately for the Jays, we usually play three-thirds in this game. Boston scored two in the sixth, one each in the seventh and eighth and then opened up with a three-run ninth to make this one not-so-close. Sox starter Ryan Weber allowed one run over six to give a breather to a bullpen which pitched in a thirteen inning game the night before and Steve Pearce homered and had three RBI. The highlight of the game, though, came from a Jays player. Watch Vlad Jr. through out Rafael Devers from his butt:

Marlins 5, Tigers 2: Make it six straight wins for the Marlins. This one was particularly fun for the Fish and particularly gutting for the Tigers, as Detroit took a 2-0 lead into the ninth only to see reliever Shane Greene cough up all five of the runs Miami would score on the day. First an RBI single to Neil Walker to made it 2-1. A few batters later Ron Gardenhire intentionally walked Curtis Granderson to load the bases, setting up Garrett Cooper for his two-out grand slam. Cooper hit his first big league dinger on Wednesday, so I guess he’s getting the hang of this game. That’s nine straight losses for Detroit. Could’ve been ten as they were trailing in a game against Oakland last weekend that got suspended. Of course it probably feels like 25.

Phillies 9, Cubs 7: Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto homered and Andrew McCutchen had two hits and two RBI as a fairly wild series ends up in a split. Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber homered for Chicago but Jon Lester was kinda shaky. Philly has won five of seven.

Braves 5, Giants 4: Austin Riley hit a game-tying home run in the eighth and then drove in the go-ahead run in the 13th with an RBI single. The kid just got called up nine days ago but he’s already got five homers in those nine games while hitting .389/.421/.833. Someone tell him this game at that easy. Riley and Ozzie Albies each had three hits and Tyler Flowers homered too. The Braves have won 10 of 13 and have pulled to within a game and a half of Philly.

Twins 16, Angels 7: The Angels probably would’ve preferred another rainout. No dice, though, and as it was they gave up eight — 8! VIII! — homers to the Twins. Four of those were surrendered by Matt Harvey, who couldn’t get out of the third inning and whose ERA ballooned to 7.50 on the season. So, um, yeah, that whole experiment has not worked out too well. As for the dingers: Miguel Sanó and Jonathan Schoop went deep twice while C.J. Cron, Max KeplerJorge Polanco and Eddie Rosario had a homer a piece. It was the second time this year Minnesota hit eight homers in a game. The Twins are on pace for 324 homers. The all-time record was set by the Yankees last year with 267. Minnesota is likewise only the second team to hit eight homers in a game twice in a season. The last was the 2005 Rangers. Which, yeah, every game these days sort of feels like old Rangers games. Not that that’s really a compliment, aesthetically speaking. Indeed, longtime readers will know that I tend to default to “1990s-2000s Rangers” as a shorthand for rather boring, offense-heavy baseball. Not that Twins fans should mind, of course.

Rays 7, Indians 2: The “highlight” of this one was a Kevin Kiermaeir inside-the-park homer which was, in reality, a real drag of a play given that it only happened because Tribe outfielders Oscar Mercado and Leonys Martín slammed into each other and got hurt:

Each of the outfielders would stay in the game, thankfully. Both for their own sake and because the Indians are probably one injury or cold streak away from activating Cory Snyder or Albert Belle or someone to play outfield. The Rays got more conventional homers from Tommy Pham, Avisail García and Willy Adames.

White Sox 4, Astros 0: Lucas Giolio went the distance, spinning a four-hit shutout while striking out nine to help the Chisox earn a series split. That’s two straight complete games for Giolito. The last one was a rain-shortened four and a half inning number, but CGs are rare these days. He should own it.