MLB is quietly discovering no collusion between the Mets and Yankees with Aaron Judge

Last week during a somewhat upbeat press conference inside a seventh-floor conference room at his headquarters, Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke for 20 minutes to about 15 reporters.

The topics were as wide as the sponsorship aligning debacle with FTX, whose logo was on the shirts of all the referees. As part of a major financial loss, Manfred refused to say the exact amount while he was also happy not to mention his sport in the lawsuit involving the likes of Tom Brady and Stephen Curry.

Another theme was collusion, perhaps one of the dirtiest words in the long and often tense history of player-owner relations.

The topic arose because on November 3, an article on SportsNet New York (SNY) — the TV station that has aired Mets games since the 2006 season — stated that friendship and respect between Yankee owner Hal Steinbrenner and relatively new Mets owner and free spender Steve Cohen would result.” A mutually respectful relationship” when it comes to Mets thought of not pursuing Aaron Judge, who is being wooed by the San Francisco Giants with some potential help from Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry.

Earlier this week, TIME magazine reported that the investigation concluded with MLB finding no evidence of collusion. In a simple statement to TIME, a senior MLB executive said, “We have completed our investigation. We have notified MLBPA that there is no basis for any allegation of collusion.”

The feeling was that this was going to end quickly, mostly because when Manfred answered a few questions on the subject he certainly took it seriously but the allegations also seemed to be a minor annoyance as he moved on from annoying fans with a lengthy shutdown. It threatened and ultimately postponed the season by a week to a sport reported to have $11 billion in revenue thanks to newfound broadcast deals and an expanded 12-team playoffs field that added an extra round of nine additional matches.

“I am absolutely confident that the clubs have acted in a manner consistent with the agreement,” Manfred said last week, referring to the current five-year collective bargaining agreement ratified in March.

“This was based on a newspaper report. We’re going to put ourselves in a position to credibly prove to MLBPA that this isn’t a problem. I’m sure that will be a result, but we obviously understand the sentiment surrounding that word (collusion) and will continue to act accordingly.”

Before Manfred made his comments that seemed to indicate an open-and-shut case from their point of view, The Athletic reported that the union asked MLB to inquire about correspondence between Cohen, who bought the Mets from the Wilpon family for $2.4 billion in 2020, and Steinbrenner.

Anytime word of collusion appears in baseball, it sends panic to fans who certainly remember the events that followed the 1985, 1986, and 1987 seasons. After the Royals, Mets, and Twins won World Series titles in those seasons, almost no free agents changed teams.

Before players were paid $280 million for CBA violations those seasons, eight free agents changed teams after the 1985 and 1986 team, including Hall of Famer Andre Dawson who won the 1987 NL MVP title after being given a cut salary to transfer from Expos to Cubs.

Even the free-wheeling Yankees were involved as The Sporting News reported at the time that White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf called on George Steinbrenner to overrule Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk.

Perhaps the most famous case involved Tim Raines, who ended up returning to the show in 1987 after missing the first month of the season. The Raines re-signed to a three-year deal on May 1, 1987 because that was the first day teams could negotiate with former players.

A day later, Reigns made a memorable season appearance on NBC’s Game of the Week at Shea Stadium. He finished his debut with a slam dunk against Jesse Orosco, capping a 4-for-5 showing that featured a triple on the first pitch he saw off David Cone, who was in the second of his 419 starts.

The topic resurfaced a few years ago when free agents were slow to sign after the 2017 and 2018 seasons — a season that ended with Bryce Harper signing in Philadelphia and Manny Machado signing in San Diego. In the end there was just as little evidence as there appears to have been any involving the Mets and Yankees based on a brief MLB investigation that began shortly after Manfred’s conference room surfaced.

The Mets don’t seem to be seen as major factors in the judge’s sweepstakes, especially since retaining Jacob DeGrum is their top priority. Based on MLB’s uneventful results, the Mets don’t need an informal mutual respect agreement to walk away from bids for baseball’s hottest free agent.

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