On December 19, 1986 — After finding no other clubs interested in signing him, free-agent pitcher and 20-game winner Jack Morris agrees to salary arbitration with the Tigers while at the same time accusing the major league owners of collusion against free agents. Morris had offered to sign a one-year contract, with a salary to be determined by an arbitrator, with either the Yankees, Angels, Twins or Phillies, but was turned down by all four.

Morris is not alone, in 1986 only four free agents switched teams. Andre Dawson took a pay cut and a one-year contract to sign with the Chicago Cubs. Three-fourths of the free agents signed one-year contracts. Star players that ended up back with their old teams included Morris (Detroit Tigers), Tim Raines (Montreal Expos), Ron Guidry (New York Yankees), Rich Gedman (Red Sox), Bob Boone (California Angels), and Doyle Alexander (Atlanta Braves).

For the first time since the start of free agency, the average major league salary declined. The average free-agent salary dropped by 16 percent, while MLB reported revenues increasing by 15 percent. This prompted the MLBPA to file a second grievance (Collusion II) on February 18, 1987. Even as this was happening, Ueberroth ordered the owners to tell him personally if they planned to offer contracts longer than three years.

In September 1987, the Collusion I case came before arbitrator Thomas Roberts, who ruled that the owners had violated the CBA by conspiring to restrict player movement.

In the end, in 1990 the Owners were forced to pay $280M to the Players Union.

At that time, then-commissioner Fay Vincent told the owners:

The single biggest reality you guys have to face up to is collusion. You stole $280 million from the players, and the players are unified to a man around that issue, because you got caught and many of you are still involved.

 


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