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"The players' worst fears are unfolding. The owners are in the driver's seat back to self-control."

So sez Richard Griffin today in the Star. I am quick to criticize Griffin for inconsistencies and biases, but when he isn't slinging mud at the local team, Rich often has some provocative thoughts, and he builds a strong argument around the Rangers letting Pudge walk, then hits a bullseye:

"The most talented free agents in this crop must feel bushwhacked by the sudden availability of a talented Expos core group of players offered by cost-cutting MLB ownership. Conflict of interest? No doubt."

Yesterday on the Transaction Oracle thread about Steve Finley, someone posted "Call the 1-800-COLLUSION complaint line. Oh wait, that number's not in service yet." I suggested calls to that number should be forwarded to Scott Boras' office. This "correction" in the baseball economy is a response by the teams to the new CBA that has gone further, sooner, than many of us expected, but it will take one greedy owner to start a stampede in the opposite direction. Until then, though I'm not implying management is doing anything illegal, we're almost back to the days of the great Andre Dawson signing a blank contract. The smart and flexible teams will get the "right" bargains, so the Jays are well positioned to improve.
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_Matthew Elmslie - Wednesday, December 11 2002 @ 02:00 PM EST (#101533) #
It should be noted that this is not like the collusion of the '80s - we have had some prominent free agents changing teams - Thome, Glavine. And given the new luxury tax, it's perfectly sensible of the owners to be engaging in restraint. I don't think you could make a case for collusion this time.

The situation with the Expos players is of course highly suspect but given the recent history of the franchise I don't really see it as an attempt to pull down salaries around the league. It seems too subtle for MLB and even if they did intend such an effect it's probably unprovable.
Dave Till - Wednesday, December 11 2002 @ 02:24 PM EST (#101534) #
I sometimes wonder whether Bud's goal is to find a way to get Vlad into a Brewers uniform.

I think that Billy Beane, and the new generation of GM's (including Epstein and J.P.) are having as much of an influence as the new CBA. General managers are learning that it's silly to overspend on middle-level players when there are better alternatives in the pool of freely available talent. In retrospect, the Derek Bell contract may become as famous as the initial Messersmith/McNally free agent challenge.

Also, many GM's have spent like crazy the last couple of years (Darren Dreifort, Mike Hampton), so there literally isn't much room for additional spending. At least the Jays' remaining high-priced contract is for somebody who is actually good (Delgado).
_Kent - Wednesday, December 11 2002 @ 05:07 PM EST (#101535) #
You've got one of the owners as Commissioner, with everything but fingerprints on two franchises. One of those teams is flooding the market with talent at the "best" possible time to devalue other players. It seems like a preposterous coincidence, so I reluctantly admit the frightening possibility that Team Bud planned all of this. (I'd love to know the details of Paul Beeston's dismissal, and his take on the CBA and the Tax.)

Did the union have this coming? Well, the agents did. The pendulum may have swung back toward the middle, but the players are still well paid. I agree with Matthew, this isn't collusion: it's well-organized restraint, 100% justifiable under the new rules. And Minaya can build a competitive team for $40 M if he trades Colon, Cabrera and Tatis. So by advertising Guererro, he gets the undivided attention of 29 teams. All of this makes perfect sense, yet Pudge Rodriguez still reminds me of the Hawk in Collusion I.

I will relax when Pohlad sells, preferably to Donald Watkins, and the Expos get a real owner who wants to compete, like Mark Cuban. I'm unhappy, but no longer whining, about Montreal losing its team -- MLB should put them anywhere, ASAP, under new management, and avoid more questions about integrity.
_Kent - Sunday, December 15 2002 @ 02:46 PM EST (#101536) #
More today from Griffin on the Expos' fire sale gambit, MLB's conflict of interest and the "C" word. When he doesn't mention the Jays, Rich isn't so bad:

"Remember, Plan A for the Expos was contraction. That didn't work. Plan B is relocation. In the meantime, don't believe MLB has any desire to re-establish baseball interest in Montreal.

"No, Bud Selig and his bosses are using the situation to put the screws to the union, the agents, the players and the former managing partners of the Expos who dared file what baseball feels is a frivolous lawsuit to keep the team in Canada."

Not a good year to be a free agent.
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