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Report: MLBPA investigating comment made by Alex Anthopoulos

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The Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement on Wednesday, saying it is launching an investigation after Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos made a comment in a conference call earlier this week which described coordination between clubs approaching free agency. Anthopoulos said, “Every day you get more information. And we’ve had time to connect with 27 of the clubs — obviously the Astros and (Nationals) being in the World Series, they were tied up — but we 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.”

Executive director Tony Clark said in response, “The statements made by Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos call into question the integrity of the entire free-agent system. The clear description of Club coordination is egregious, and we have launched an immediate investigation looking into the matter.”

The collective bargaining agreement states, “Players shall not act in concert with other Players and Clubs shall not act in concert with other Clubs.”

There has been tension between ownership and the union for the last couple of years as the balance of power seems to have swung heavily in favor of ownership. The union has been unhappy with the recent slowness of free agency and the qualifying offer system, for example. This statement is just the latest as the two sides battle for power.

The comment Anthopoulos made is certainly sketchy, and certainly worth looking into, but it is not clear evidence of collusion. The phrase, “we’ve had time to connect with 27 of the clubs,” is vague. What does it mean? Is it simply contacting other clubs to see which players might be available via trade? Or is it specifically asking them about specific free agents and dollar amounts of offers?

That being said, we can certainly add it onto the pile of questionable things that could potentially point to collusion. Back in February, lefty Francisco Liriano was unsigned when all of a sudden he received nine minor league contract offers, including seven on the same day for “pretty much the same money,” The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel reported.

The Athletic’s Jayson Stark reported earlier that month that Mark Reynolds went through a similar experience, receiving no offers then getting four minor league contract offers on the same day. It was, according to Stark, a free agent tale “I’ve heard a lot.”

Reliever Brad Brach said he was told by teams that they were using algorithms to judge players. He, too, received minor league contract offers around the same time, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reported. Brach ended up having to wait until March to sign a major league deal with the Cubs.

Let’s also not forget that the owners were found to have colluded in the 1980’s as the MLBPA filed three grievances. There have been many rumblings of collusion since then, but nothing substantive. It is a notoriously difficult offense to prove. Additionally, the Braves’ front office was embroiled in a scandal not all that long ago as former GM John Coppolella broke rules concerning the signing of international players. Coppolella resigned from his position, then a month later was banned for life from Major League Baseball following an investigation.

Again, what Anthopoulos said isn’t evidence of collusion. It is, however, suspicious and the union is doing its due diligence looking into the matter. That’s all that can really be said at the moment.

Update (10:48 PM ET): Anthopoulos has released a statement:

Rumor: MLB execs discussing 100-game season that would begin July 1

David Price and Mookie Betts
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Matt Spiegel of 670 The Score Chicago heard from a source that Major League Baseball executives have been discussing a 100-game season that would begin on July 1 and conclude on October 15. It would essentially pick up the second half schedule, eliminating the All-Star Game while hosting the World Series at a neutral warm-weather stadium — ideally Dodger Stadium.

In the event the Dodgers, who won 106 games last year, made it all the way through the playoffs, the World Series would be hosted in Anaheim or San Diego. The earlier rounds of the playoffs would be played in the cities of the teams involved, which might be tough since the postseason would extend into November.

Spiegel went on to describe this vision as “an absolute best case scenario,” and that’s accurate. In order for the regular season to begin on July 1, the players would need to have several weeks if not a full month prior to get back into playing shape — more or less an abbreviated second spring training. And that would mean the U.S. having made significant progress against the virus by way of herd immunity or a vaccine, which would allow for nonessential businesses to resume operations. The U.S., sadly, is faring not so well compared to other nations around the world for a variety of reasons, but all of which point to a return to normalcy by the summer seeming rather unlikely.

Regardless, the league does have to plan for the potential of being able to start the regular season this summer just in case things really do break right and offer that opportunity. Commissioner Rob Manfred has stated multiple times about the league’s need to be creative, referring to ideas like playing deep into the fall, changing up the location of games, playing without fans in attendance, etc. This rumor certainly fits the “creative” mold.