By Joe Christensen
With the free agent market set to open tonight at 11 p.m. (Central), there’s an important piece by Ken Rosenthal on FoxSports.com today, about the growing tension between players and owners. Yes, the C-word gets mentioned again. Collusion.
Prominent agent Scott Boras basically says follow the money. Though his estimates are disputed by MLB officials, he points to the tens of millions teams are receiving from the central fund — from national TV contracts, licensing, etc. — and the tens of millions more some teams get in revenue sharing, and concludes some are pocketing the cash, instead of re-investing in payroll.
Rob Manfred, MLB’s chief of labor negotiations, counters: “Just like when [Boras] does a player negotiation he lies about the numbers in order to get the price up, now he’s taken that to the macro-economic level and lying about industry numbers in order to get player [contract] numbers up,” Manfred said. “There is no one club getting $80 or $90 million in combination from revenue sharing and Central Baseball. Not one.”
Rosenthal notes that the owners and players have agreed to shelve any collusion grievance until after the offseason. But the current collective bargaining agreement expires after 2011, and baseball’s unprecedented stretch of labor peace could be in jeopardy.
For now, with the economy struggling and amid hints that some teams are determined to trim payroll (Tigers, Reds, etc.), this creates an interesting backdrop as the current free agent class begins testing the market.