Why "free" agency is not really free.

Click here to see my post explaining why "free" agency really amounts to coercion and an artificial factor interfering in the free market.

. . . . under "free" agency, freedom of contract and freedom to negotiate are illusions. Prices and salaries are not arrived at freely when -

  • one side is forced to hire the other side under penalty of fines and sanctions;
  • contracts are not always recognized (and sometimes punished);
  • the dollar amounts "agreed" upon will be subsidized by the government; and
  • one side is prevented from defining itself as it sees fit and is forced to separate into factions, each of whom must, under penalty of law, compete with each other (even before the negotiations with the other side begin).

All of these conditions have existed in Major League Baseball since the Marvin Miller era took root.

  • The owners are forced not only to hire free agents, but to bid up their salaries to some arbitrary level, or else they will be fined hundreds of millions of dollars for "collusion;"
  • Should owners attempt to contract with each other to limit or avoid a free agent bidding war, such contract will be invalidated and the owners, again, will be fined for collusion;
  • No matter how much the owners are forced to pay, local governments (backed by eventual federal bailouts) will subsidize the salaries by building (and incurring bond debt to pay for) improved stadiums capable of raising more money; and
  • Major League Baseball is treated legally as multiple individual employers with no relation to each other, instead of being able to define itself as one employer, so that the law can more easily require each arbitrarily defined "employer" to bid against each other for "free" agents.

It will take many posts to document how each of these conditions makes it impossible to consider any baseball salary truly "free." The salaries are arrived at through a combination of compulsion and bribery. The owners are compelled to pay, and then subsidized by the municipalilties and, ultimately, the taxpayers.