Is Baseball Shrouded in Collusion Once More? Assessing the Likelihood that the Current State of the Free Agent Market Will Lead to Antitrust Liability for Major League Baseball’s Owners

Mulry Note


This Note examines how Major League Baseball’s (MLB) current free agent system is restraining trade despite the existence of the league’s non-statutory labor exemption from antitrust. The league’s players have seen their percentage share of earnings decrease even as league revenues have reached an all-time high. This reality is due to the players’ inability to “cash-in” when their market value hits its apex. Once these players enter the open market, their value has greatly deteriorated and consequently, they are unable to generate earnings commensurate with their value to the league.

This Note first explores the progression of MLB’s exemption from antitrust before briefly examining the history of the sport’s reserve clause. This Note then chronicles free agency’s inception, its subsequent development, the league’s brushes with collusion over the past several decades, and how the Curt Flood Act has critically peeled back the sport’s antitrust exemption. Finally, it demonstrates how the current system of free agency is restraining trade before positing that the pursuit of antitrust litigation is the optimal measure players can turn to in order to combat the current state of the free agent market.

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Fordham Journal of Corporate & Financial Law