Tom Verducci will answer select questions from SI.com users in his Baseball Mailbag.
For three offseasons -- before the 1985, '86 and '87 seasons -- owners carried out a covert, concerted effort to drive down the prices of free agents. That is, when they bothered making any offers at all. But don't just write off this episode as a case of commissioner Peter Ueberroth and the owners trying to save money. Their crime was much worse: They didn't try to win.
Jack Morris, the 1984 World Series hero for Detroit, couldn't get a job. For instance, after meeting with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, Morris would later say, "[Steinbrenner] lied to my face." Steinbrenner's decision not to sign Morris very likely cost him a world championship. The Yankees had the league's best offense in 1985 but never did find regular fourth and fifth starters -- Bob Shirley and Marty Bystrom made 16 starts combined, for instance. The Yankees won 97 games and finished two games behind Toronto.
"We would catch guys," Morris told me about that offseason when nobody wanted him. "Certain guys in an organization didn't know. They were told instructions and they were ready to make something happen and then, all of a sudden, it would die within minutes because somebody would come into the room and say, 'You can't do that.'"
The owners were eventually found guilty of colluding and ordered to pay $280 million plus interest to the players they harmed. There was, however, no amount that would restore their integrity.
4. The 1994 strike
Owners tried to shove a salary cap down the throat of players and look what it got them: the first cancellation of a postseason in major professional sports history. The strike killed baseball in Montreal (the Expos were in first place when the strike hit, six games in front), ruined Tony Gwynn's chance at .400 (he was hitting .394) and blew an opportunity for Matt Williams to chase Roger Maris' record 61 home runs (he had 43 at the time).
Naturally, neither the owners nor players were blameless, but the passage of time hasn't helped the owners' position. They gained almost nothing from the shutdown, though the framework of today's revenue-sharing plan and luxury-tax system emerged from the mess. The lowest point occurred when owners planned to play the 1995 season with replacement players, though the Orioles refused to field a team and the Ontario, Canada, law prevented any such replacement workers from playing in Toronto.
Thank goodness for U.S. District Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who issued an injunction against the owners just days before Opening Day, sparing us from the travesty of replacement ball and bringing an end to the strike. The owners didn't give up. They appealed her ruling. Six months later a three-judge panel in New York unanimously told the owners they were dead wrong. The panel found they had illegally attempted to eliminate free agency and salary arbitration.
5. The Steroid Era
The chapters are still being written, so don't be surprised if it moves up the list. Barry Bonds could be indicted for perjury. There are many, many more Jose Cansecos, Jason Giambis, Paxton Crawfords and Jason Grimsleys out there, players whose performance-enhancing drug use will come to light as the archeology of the era continues. But what we know already is that the game was full of cheats for roughly 15 years, and the statistics of the game -- the sport's sacred scripture -- were twisted into a senseless, unholy mess.
There can be no absolute faith in Canseco's 40-40 season, Giambi's MVP season, the home run records of Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, the 3,000 hits and 500 homers of Rafael Palmeiro, the lifetime record of Grimsley and the hundreds of other desperate fringe players who capitalized on a lenient culture. Owners allowed it to happen, first by being late to recognize what was going on in the game and then by lacking the conviction to do the dirty cleanup work immediately and thoroughly. But make no mistake: It was a players-initiated scandal.