If the Giants over this past decade became known for their even year magic that resulted in a World Series title, then the Braves are starting to get known for their odd year voodoo that results in a GM finding himself in the middle of controversy. After John Coppolella ran afoul of league rules and regulations and got himself banned from baseball for life, you’d think that this was enough controversy to last any franchise for a long, long time.
Instead, they’ve got another mess to deal with. Alex Anthopoulos found himself directly in the sights of Tony Clark and the MLBPA after he made some comments in regards to what the Braves and the rest of baseball were going to be doing during the offseason. You can look at the MLBPA’s Tweet in Scott’s initial post about the news, and here’s the words that got AA into hot water with the union:
“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.”
There are a couple of ways that you can interpret what happened here. In one vein, this could just be AA deciding to let the media in on what they plan on doing and also that the Braves are scanning the market and keeping an eye on what the rest of baseball is doing. That’s what Anthopoulos said in his statement in response to Wednesday’s incident:
That sounds innocent enough, right? However, we are not living in innocent times in baseball at the moment. The very fact that we have to talk about the idea of players entering free agency as a “risky move” should be all you need to know about what things are like right now for the players. It’s absolutely understandable why the union would take a nefarious view of this comment. They’re not going to just sit idly by while seeing star players have to wait until February to sign a deal and teams waiting until they’re deep into the season before they sign a high-level starting pitcher.
The current system is heavily slanted in favor of the teams and it shouldn’t be a shock to see the union on edge like this. Even if Alex Anthopoulos genuinely didn’t mean anything nefarious with his comments on that conference call, it’s still not a good look to say that you’re talking to other teams about what they’re looking to “do in free agency.” It may have been a slip but that’s also very, very suspicious in a time where teams are finding it harder and harder to earn the benefit of the doubt with how the past couple of offseasons have gone.
The good news for the Braves is that this probably won’t amount to much of anything when it comes to the results of the investigation. While those comments are worth looking into, it’s probably not enough to get a serious collusion grievance going. We’re probably going to see this thing come and go without too much issue — we’ll see the MLBPA release a sternly-worded statement at some point in the near future and everybody will continue on with their business like they usually would.
Jeff Passan of ESPN.com laid out an excellent idea (and explanation) of what to expect as far as the future of this particular situation is concerned:
This particular skirmish could take months, maybe more, to play out. The union’s next step as part of its investigation will be to request information from the league. The questions it will ask to determine coordination among teams and how MLB will respond to the request are key. If the league doesn’t cooperate, the union could file a grievance to gather information. If the league does cooperate and the union finds actions it believes constitute a violation of the collective bargaining agreement, the MLBPA could file a grieving alleging collusion.
This is pretty clearly a sign that dark times are lurking when it comes to the labor peace that baseball has enjoyed since the infamous 1995 strike. The union is clearly displeased with the current state of the sport and they probably have the right to be. We’re hearing teams like the Dodgers talking about their “business plan,” the Cardinals are going to have “major budget limitations,” you’re being told that not to count on the Cubs “spending big money,” and then we have the Braves themselves shuffling around small bits of money because they appear to absolutely loathe the idea of even getting close to the Competitive Balance Tax.
wow the NL Central is gonna be a knock 'em down, drag 'em out brawl huh pic.twitter.com/uLTvtkDCQM— Craig Goldstein (@cdgoldstein) November 6, 2019
These are all teams that were either in the title conversation last season or have been in the picture in the very recent past. We’re seeing big market teams talking as if they’re the Pirates and that’s not the sign of a healthy labor agreement in the least bit. It’s concerning and you can easily see why the union is being a little jumpy about this.
So while Alex Anthopoulos’s comments on that conference call won’t amount to much, it was still worth looking into. Let’s put it like this: If baseball’s free agency system was in a better state we didn’t have to entertain the idea of good players having to wait out the majority of the offseason to land with another team, then the union wouldn’t have had any reason to scrutinize the comments. Since the current relationship between the teams and the union is so icy, that’s why this current situation has unfolded in the way it has.
This whole thing isn’t going to shake the baseball universe to its foundation, but I believe that there’s going to be a nasty battle on the way. Labor tensions are rising and it’s going to take a lot of talking and a lot of work in order to ease those tensions and this is an indication that the teams and the union may have a long, long way to go in order to bring back true peace.