NEW YORK — An arbitrator ruled today that baseball management conspired to restrict free agency, a landmark decision certain to upset the sport's power structure.
The arbitrator, Thomas Roberts, examined 5,682 pages of transcripts and 288 exhibits before announcing a decision viewed as perhaps the most significant in baseball since free agency began in 1975.
The grievance was filed Feb. 3, 1986, by the Major League Baseball Players Assn., charging owners violated the collective bargaining agreement by working in collusion not to sign free agents.
The league's 26 owners and Commissioner Peter Ueberroth claimed management was practicing "fiscal responsibility."
The grievance was filed on behalf of the 63 players in the 1985-86 class of free agents, including Kirk Gibson, Phil and Joe Niekro, Carlton Fisk, Butch Wynegar and Donnie Moore. A similar grievance on behalf of 1986-87 free agents Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, Jack Morris and Lance Parrish is being heard separately by another arbitrator.