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Tuesday, October 21, 2008
 
MLBPA Claims to Have Evidence Baseball Teams Colluded Against Barry Bonds

ESPN recently reported that the Major League Baseball Players Association ("MLBPA") claims to have uncovered evidence that certain Major League Baseball teams colluded against Barry Bonds in violation of Article XX(E) of the Major League Baseball Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Although the MLBPA has not made the alleged evidence public, this news is hardly surprising given that Bonds's agent Jeff Borris claimed earlier this year that he offered Bonds's services to "numerous" clubs for the major league-minimum salary of $390,000, but there were no takers.

Article XX(E)(1) of the CBA states as follows:
The utilization or non-utilization of rights [under Baseball's reserve system] is an individual matter to be determined solely by each Player and each Club for his or her own benefit. Players shall not act in concert with other Players and Clubs shall not act in concert with other Clubs.

Article XX(E)(2) then awards any player harmed by collusion the right to recover treble damages, including lost salary and lost contract years. This means that if but-for collusion Barry Bonds would have been able to sign a two-year, $10 million contract, Bonds would be able to recover up to $60 million (2 years * $10 million * 3) from the teams that colluded against his interests (presuming, of course, an arbitator finds collusion).

This is not the first time that the Major League Baseball clubs have allegedly violated the game's collusion clause. In the late 1980s, arbitrators on three separate occasions found MLB club owners liable for colluding against player interests. The clubs eventually settled those grievances by paying $280 million to the players union. Thereafter, in 2006, MLB club owners agreed to pay an additional $12 million to the union to settle collusion grievances from the 2002-03 off-season.

For those of you interested in a more detailed history of Baseball collusion, here is a law review article that I wrote on that topic several years ago for the Loyola of L.A. Entertainment Law Journal. In addition, I am putting the finishing touches on a new article entitled "Moving Past Collusion in Major League Baseball: Healing Old Wounds and Preventing New Ones." That article will appear in the Fall 2008 Wayne Law Review, and includes a brief section on the Bonds allegations.

(An abridged version of this entry was cross-posted on Sports Judge Blog)





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