View Poll Results: How effectively could a player bargain under the Reserve Clause, as opposed to now?

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Thread: Reserve Clause: Bargaining

  1. #1
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    Reserve Clause: Bargaining

    In the Joe Jackson Innocence thread, we got off subject as to just how effectively a player could bargain under the 'Reserve Clause' system, as existed in baseball, 1876-1975.

    For around 100 yrs., baseball players struggled under that system, and some members suggest it wasn't really that bad for the players. One member mentioned that they could hold out, as an effective bargaining tool. I will post some of our discussions, and would like to open the debate up, as to how effectively do you feel a ballplayer could bargain under the 'Reserve System', as opposed to the present system of Free Agency.

    All Free Agency really is is an absense of the Reserve Clause. What happens in a free labor market.
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 08-04-2008 at 06:48 AM.

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    Ubiquitous contributed this post:

    Was Lefty Williams underpaid? If so what should he have been paid? Was Chick, was Lefty?

    For the 1920 season how much did Joe Jackson ask for? It wasn't anything close to premier salary right? He wasn't asking for Eddie Collins or Ty Cobb money.

    Again Eddie Cicotte in his contract negotiations asked for $7,000. Not 15,000 not 12,000 nor anything like that. The funny thing is if Eddie had gotten the $7,000 you guys would be saying he was underpaid and it was Comiskey's fault. Eddie set his price range, the salary of Walter Johnson or Ty Cobb is meaningless after that.

    Why should Comiskey do the "noble" thing and tear up Joe's contract? In a lot of ways Joe was the Albert Belle of Cleveland long before Belle got their. Now you might see that and see red but I'm not saying its an exact comparison. Joe had a stormy relationship with Cleveland, he was moody and had some issues. So when should Comiskey have torn up the contract? During the 1918 shortened season when Joe fled to civilian work instead of serving his country? In 1917 when he had one of the worst years of his career?


    Again people want to say these guys were vastly underpaid that Comiskey was a cheapskate but they don't know what they were getting paid or what others were getting paid. I'll say it again Buck Weaver was the highest paid third basemen in the game. There are those who actually looked and they cannot find someone higher. Ray Schalk was the highest paid catcher, Collins the highest paid second-basemen. What other positional players on the Sox deserved those high rewards? Did Swede? Did Chick? And again Joe Jackson agreed to his salary several years before. Cicotte asked for 7 he got 6. What should Lefty Williams had gotten? Comiskey the cheapskate had 3 of the highest paid positional players on his team yet people want to say this team was vastly underpaid. I don't see it I don't see where people were vastly underpaid. Eddie wasn't vastly underpaid.

    Its hard for me to see where Joe Jackson would have gotten the big salary in Chicago regardless of Comiskey. If Comiskey was handing out 1 year contracts after each season why would he give Joe Jackson a big contract for 1919? His 1917 season was not "elite", baseball suffered through the war in 1918 and Jackson only played 17 games, nor was Comiskey happy about the way Joe served during the war, the owners were fearful of another bust season in 1919 thus the shortened season. So again why would Joe in 1919 get a big contract? Why would he get a big contract in 1918?

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    Bill came back with this post, and went too far and was far too harsh.

    Ubi,

    I'm not sure as to your state of mind here, but if you aren't angry, you are not making too much sense. You are asking such inane questions, which even a moment of thought would be self-explanatory. I will give you some examples.

    You ask what Joe Jackson asked for in salary for 1920. Before the 1920 seasons, when Harry Grabiner visited Joe to discuss the next season's contract, Joe asked for a 3 yr. contract for $10K per yr. What a totally reasonable request.

    Now you seem to posit your question strangely. You seem to come from the most odd, peculiar position possible. Your position seems to be that if someone didn't ask for a certain amount, it was because you weren't worth it, or it's your own fault for not asking for more, asking for what you're worth.

    How strange of you to even pose your questions so inanely. But I'll work with you and try to bring some semblance of logic to your inquiries. Let's do Jackson, for 1920.

    He asked for a 3 yr. contract for $10K/per. How in heck can you fault him for not asking for his true worth of $15K/per.?????? Does it occur to your mind that Joe had sat in that office the year before and asked for more money? And gotten blown off like a child, due to the reserve clause??????

    All the ChiSox players, had sat in the Lion's Den each season before and gotten intimidated, and threatened. They had asked for good raises, been treated dismissively, like children, and MADE to accept whatever was proffered.

    You seem either to have no inkling of the situation, or don't care, or perhaps you identify with the owners' position of power.

    The owner was in the position of being able to completely dictate terms. The man sitting across from you has no position to bargain from. If he threatens to not accept ANY part of the contract, his only option is to walk away from his profession completely. How many highly specialized professionals can afford to walk away from their fields, and start all over again at the bottom of the ladder in another field??? That is simply not a rational, logical, practical option for adults. And certainly not for those responsible for others, such as wives/children.

    But you seem oblivious to the plight of the ballplayers in that unenviable position. To all those who post callously, as if the player had ANY leverage, ANY position to speak of, think again.

    First of all, when you walk into the office to 'talk contract', you will feel tension just walking in, and know the conversation will be somewhat one-sided. Few players were ever in a position to bargain effectively. Cobb/Ruth did, because their owners knew that they brought the fans out. And their absence would dry up the revenue stream. Walter Johnson a little bit.

    But even players like DiMag/Koufax had major salary hassles, and ultimately were cheated out of a vast amount of income, because the cursed reserve clause gave the worker no ability to shop their services around.

    Back to Jackson. He asked for a 3 yr. contract at $10/per., was offered $8K, take it or leave it. He 'took' it, not because he valued himself at $8K, but because, as he said in his trial, that's all he could get! And even at that, he wasn't even offered 8. The contract was misrepresented. The contract called for another $6K for 1920, with a $2K bonus. He was never told ANYTHING about a bonus. Clear fraud on the part of Harold Grabiner, probably on orders from Commie the Crook.

    And why would that be any different from the previous years? Whose to say Jackson was satisfied with his salary? Who's to say he didn't ask for his appropriate raises? Who's to say Joe didn't realize his value, ask for it, insist on it, and was made to settle for whatever Commie the Crook chose to pay?

    So, when someone implies that a ChiSox player was cheerfully accepting their salaries, and was satisfied that their value was being properly compensated, I accuse you of unbelievable naiveté.

    When you ask what Lefty Williams, or Gandil or somebody deserved, I'd need to know what they made to answer that. You continue repeating that Cicotte only asked for 7K and got 6K, as if that was OK with Eddie. His acceptance does NOT connotate that the 6K was OK with him, only that he wasn't in a position to quit baseball. None of them were. Hence, the smug arrogance of owners, knowing they were dealing with helpless slaves.

    That is why I am so pleased that today's owners are being made to create millionaires of journeymen! The pendulum has finally swung, after 100 years of player slavery. Now its the owners turn to grind their teeth! No one is overpaid today. Let the owners 'just say no'.

    Did it ever occur to you that he asked for only 7 because past negotiations has taught him that it would have been pointless to ask for more? For a man who won 28 games to ask for so little shows that he knew his boss quite well. He was asking for modest improvement, and was STILL disrespected, by not even getting the 7K!!!

    Really Ubi, I'm trying to not sound disrespectful, but you are treating these ballplayers as if they were completely ignorant, and you are disrespecting their positions of utter helplessness. Do you truly, in your heart, believe that Eddie Cicotte was in a position to turn down Commie the Crook's offer of 7K? That he should have quit baseball and went to work in the mines for $8./day? Is that what you're suggesting here? Would that represent a reasonable option to you? Because that was his only option. Take the $6K or quit his profession. That is not a free choice. That is a coercive, dictated ultimatum. There really weren't any negotiations in baseball. There were only dictated terms, ultimatums. No one had a choice.

    But I strongly suspect that some here not only know that, they are pleased by it. They identify with management, and actually enjoy the players' helplessness. And I suspect that is what's going on here. Management bias.

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    Ubi came back and delved ever deeper.

    This debate is pointless. You believe that all players back then were vastly underpaid or if that is too extreme just underpaid and had no rights. Therefore any conversation about the pay structure of the Sox is going to meet a brick wall because no answer besides yes they were underpaid will suffice. I could say Joe Schmo of the Indians got $5,000 but it won't matter because Joe Schmo was underpaid as well. It doesn't matter if Eddie asked for $7,000 because its the systems fault that he only asked for $7,000.

    And please again stop projecting your feelings on to my posts. You don't have to make every debate in which we disagree personal. You disagree with me thats fine. but you don't have to say my viewpoint is inane, or I have unbelievable naiveté. You could have made your point could have disagreed without bringing into question my state of mind. I disagree with your view, you disagree with my view. We are coming from two different places. We both see the issue as so clear cut and so obvious that doesn't mean the other person is a fool for not agreeing with the others "obvious" view. I disagree with your view but nothing in my posts are directed to you personally or about your character. Yet when you disagree with me you question my motives and at time even question my sanity. Look at the post of mine you quoted, is their anything in there even remotely directed toward you personally in a negative way? Do I say anyone who doesn't realize that the Sox were well compensated are fools or that you are crazy for not seeing what I think is obvious? No I didn't so why turn it personal?

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    Bill retorts;

    Okay, Ubi. I have not attacked you personally. I have critiqued your views on a specific issue. You are not your state of mind. They are independent.

    But since you asked where I am coming from, it is from the above.


    Quote:
    "For the 1920 season how much did Joe Jackson ask for? It wasn't anything close to premier salary right? He wasn't asking for Eddie Collins or Ty Cobb money."

    You wonder, it wasn't anything close to premier salary right? And you are right. It wasn't. And I am merely amazed that you can ask such a question! Why didn't he ask for more? Could it have been - perhaps - based on previous contract 'talks'? I think it could, Ubi.

    If I am amazed at how you could ask such silly questions, please forgive me my incredulity. But isn't it just so plain that all such 'talks', are born out of the previous ones? Is the process not accumulative? Do these people not have history in the negotiating office?

    And you seem to not be aware of these basics. You continued, "Eddie set his price range". That is what made me go ga-ga. I apologize if I went too far, but Eddie did NOT set his price range.

    Perhaps these discussions have run their course. Perhaps it has died a natural death. Our basic disagreement is that you seem to think that in the pre-free agency days of baseball, that meaningful negotiations actually took place.

    I assert with the authority of history that they never happened, for 99% of the players. Maybe a superstar here or there had a modicum of influence, like Ruth, Cobb, Wagner. But for the overwhelming masses of players who ever played in the MLs, during the 'Reserve Clause' Era, there was no such thing as meaningful negotiations. They didn't occur, didn't happen, and were more smoke than meaningful.

    The player went in, the owner made his offer which he had thought over ahead of time, and if the player didn't like it, it didn't matter. How could one bargain with meaning, if he didn't have any other recourse but to quit his profession, which had taken years to build?

    Again, I'm sorry if you feel as if I insulted you, Ubi. You're a good guy, but I just can't fathom how you can believe real negotiations were possible in the circumstances as existed in baseball until the 70's.

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    leecemark wants in:

    --They didn't have the leverage they do now, but players did negotiate and some more successfully than others. Do you really believe most players just accepted the owners first offer? Holdouts were quite common and the threat of one could be just as effective as actually getting to that point.
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    Mark furthers his case:

    --Jackson had a long history of less than sterling behavior. He jumped the A's several times, skipping the first game at Shibe Park to catch a burlesque show, and was very unpopular with his teammates. Connie Mack gave up on straightening him out and traded him to Cleveland, where he became a.superstar but not known for his dedication
    --Comiskey did publicly criticize Jackson as a draft dodger. Joe was classified 1-A for the draft, but took a job at a shipyard to get an exemption and spent 1918 playing in the Bethlehem Steel League. He was widely criticized as a slacker and Comiskey was quoted as saying "there is no room on my club for players who wish to evade the army draft by entering the employ of shipbuilders". Of course, he backed off on that after the war.

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    Bill replies to Mark:

    The history of holding out is not that effective. Guys like Frank Baker, Johnny Kling, Edd Roush, and others held out for entire seasons.

    Usually, the holdout had to settle for the original amounts. Cobb used it effectively, but how many Cobbs were there? Few.

    Yes, it was a tactic, simply not that effective. Speaker also held out in 1916, and found out in the papers he was traded.

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    Ubiquitous takes the plunge into the deep end of management/labor relations:

    But again this is why it is pointless to debate. In your view they were all vastly underpaid and serfs to the system. So even if the White Sox were the highest paid they were still vastly underpaid to you. So I don't see why we should single out the white sox and comiskey, nor do I see it as a valid reason/cause for throwing world series games. If they were all vastly underpaid why wasn't everybody throwing games? If in fact only a small group of players were actively cheating then blaming pay is treating the cough instead of the disease. The pay simply becomes an excuse to do what one wants to do anyway. It would be one thing if everybody was cheating. For instance take a look at say the Soviet Union where corruption was rampant. Practically everybody in order to survive was breaking some law. These lawbreakers were an example of a system that was broke they were a symptom to the disease.

    My view is this. Did they have rights in MLB? The simple answer no they did not have a whole lot of rights or leverage in major league baseball. Were they underpaid? Not even close. The two are separate issues that get cloudy and problematic because we end up fusing the two together. It becomes one of those if the first part is true then the second part is true but their really is no facts that the second part is true.

    What actually is underpaid? What is their real value? How much money should an owner make? How much should an employee make? Saying someone is underpaid sounds so simple buts its actually a rather complicated notion. One that isn't answered by simply saying Employee A got $8,000 therefore he is underpaid. We naturally assume that since these people had no "rights" that they were obviously underpaid. But again what does that mean? Underpaid in the modern sense? If thats the case we are viewing the past in a distorted manner, one that isn't applicable to the problems of yesteryear. Companies and yes even baseball back then was ruled by free market principles, whereas today baseball and a lot American companies and employees operate in a more rigid less free system. Now baseball is unique in that these problems came about right at a time when the US government started meddling in the corporate before wisely getting out of it for a decade or so. The government prevented the free market from correcting the economic problems of baseball, and its ruling basically ended the free market system or any chance of it developing in baseball for over 50 years. The Federal League was doing exactly what was predicted in a free market system. They were exploiting an inequity in the established product which forced competing companies to reduce the inequity in order to survive in that environment. The American League in 1901 did the exact same thing and it improved the quality of baseball tremendously. But in 1901 government interference in the corporate world was still in its infancy, the government still respected the bonds of the constitution. But anyway I'm getting way off topic.

    Where was I? Oh yes. Looking at player salaries and player negotiations for the most part they didn't get the "shaft". Owners wanted to own them but they were not adverse to paying them. They believe they were benevolent caretakers to a bunch uneducated hicks. That may not have been the case but just because they gave them no rights doesn't mean they didn't pay them. If baseball players truly had no rights then baseball owners could simply pay them the minimum pay. They could if you want to play baseball you will do it for $750 a year and if you don't like it tough there is nothing you can do. You play for me at my salary or you don't play at all. Baseball owners didn't do that because in reality they knew they could not do that. And it had nothing to with right and wrong or nobility but free market principles. Baseball owners had to offer more money then competing leagues which there were numerous choices, and by paying their product paltry sums they left themselves open to their product being taken away from them by competing leagues. Again this is how the AL became a major league and the dominant league in the first half of the 20th century. NL leagues were rowdy non-fan friendly affairs with players that were being paid less then what they truly could have obtained. The AL swooped in played a "clean" game and paid the product more money. The players left the NL in droves and the AL was a financial success despite the increased costs. Now then the FL should never have really bothered going to the government to fight an antitrust suit. It was silly to want the government to basically create a system in which inferior products were allow an equal space at the table. The FL and AL/NL should have been allowed to duke it out with the winner being the one who produced the best product. The FL didn't want that they simply wanted to be able to capture a market share without having to pay for it. The players were the product and they could have simply paid the players more money if they wanted them. Its what the AL did its what the Majors did when the FL came onto the scene. And if these pay hikes were too much if they created an imbalance then they would have gotten corrected naturally. Meaning if the pay rises to such a point that no matter what a business cannot function then there will be a correction. Sometimes its a pay cut sometimes its an innovation. For instances after WWI revenue for baseball exploded as the game moved away from spitballs and old style of baseball to the era of power. This infusion of revenue on its own sent salaries in baseball up-wards despite the fact that players had no rights. Because again if owners do not pay they leave themselves vulnerable to incursions into their market share.

    Now let me end this with one final point about underpaid. Again the view of underpaid is a philosophical point. In social utopia or I should say in a world where there is no such thing as supply and demand then everybody could get paid the max. Meaning I would pay a guy $150,000 and my business will still be healthy and my customers will pay the higher price of product without a problem, not because I have to pay him that but because its the most. In that society in that world one free of the economic repercussions of rising costs and competing interests anything less then the max would be a gross injustice. But in a world in which one competes with others for market share and one must find the delicate balance between costs and sale point paying the max for no other reason then it is the max is wrong and leaves one vulnerable to a collapse of ones business. In other words in the real world one should not have to pay another any cent more then one has to. It may no be socialistic paradise but it is reality and it happens in all sectors of business even ones that do not have restrictions like baseball. People in everyday life get salaries based on supply and demand and competing companies. In the short term or even for a few individuals it might be cold and unpleasant but in terms of the whole it makes for a healthy and productive system. I have a feeling I could ramble on for hours so I'm just going to stop this post right here.

    -
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 04-14-2006 at 07:34 AM.

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    --I said they had some leverage and hold outs were a tool frequently utilized. Player leverage in contract was very low compared to the current situation though. I picked 10% amoung your options.

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    Quote Originally Posted by leecemark
    --I said they had some leverage and hold outs were a tool frequently utilized. Player leverage in contract was very low compared to the current situation though. I picked 10% amoung your options.
    I agree. I would also pick 10% effective, which isn't anything impressive.

    To dramatize my point, just how hamstrung the player was under the reserve system, consider these few points.

    Under the reserve system, the owners were able to maintain the glass ceiling of upper player salary range at $80-$125,000. from the time of Ruth, 1930-1975, the time of Nolan Ryan.

    That is a 45 yr. stretch, where they prevented their employees from advancing along with the rest of society's professions.

    And only a scant handful of players even approached the upper limit. Ruth, DiMag, Williams, Musial, Feller, Mays, Mantle, Kiner, Greenberg, Koufax, Ryan. Maybe 5-10 more.

    And then, when the 'Reserve Clause' was finally removed from the bargaining process, and players were finally free to shop their services around to all the other owners, what happened?

    Boom!! is what happened! Within a relatively short time, the top stars were all banging on the door of a million per season. That is an explosion of a thousand percent. 1000%!

    The standardized upper limit of the salary structure went from a $125,000./per season limit to $1M very quickly.

    I remember a quote from Mickey Mantle. The newspapers had just announced that Bo Jackson had declined a raise of a few million. Mantle replied dryly that Bo had turned down a 'raise' of more than he (Mickey) had made in his entire career! Imagine that! Consider the scale!

    That represents just how much lost standard of living the ballplayers lost under the old slave system.

    They had to take what was offered, and had no effecitve tools to bargain with. Couldn't just leave 'the company' and go to work for 'another company'.

    Does anyone really believe that the Black Sox would have happened if the players had had a real choice? To those who say others had cheated/fixed - do you think that would have happened in a truly free market? Why not? Because it wouldn't have made sense in a market economy situation. A free market of labor, where the labor can move around, has too many options to fix games.

    Consider what a vast amount of wealth was stolen from the baseball players under the old system.
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 10-05-2007 at 07:00 PM.

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    --Well 100K went alot further in those days . I'd be happy to get it today. Ruth was an anomoly in any case. Nobody made nearly as much as he did when he was playing and it was quite awhile after before anybody matched it. The ceiling went up, it just that the ceiling didn't apply to The Babe.
    --Baseball was in many ways a reflection of socitey at large in the restrictions on how much employees made. For example, the movie studios locked young actors up to long term contracts and paid them a pittance per movie and gabe them little to no choice in what movies they would make. The difference in scale between what movie stars make now and the did in the days of Babe and Joltin Joe is probably even larger than the difference for ballplayers.
    --Its also important to remember that there simply wasn't as much money to go around in baseball in the early days. The only revenue was from tickets sales and both the selling price and attendance were much lower than now.
    --The reserve clause was an unfair deal for the players to be sure. Life is full of unfair deals and we all come up against them from time to time. Most of us don't sell our souls as a result. The Balck Sox did.

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    So what were the revenue streams like?

    Obe of the biggest reasons the salaries sky-rocketed is because teams revenue started to grow rapidly. It's also one of the reasons the player organized. They saw that the revenue in baseball had the potential to get really big compared to the old days and wanted to get a piece of it.

    In 1950 the average ticket price for the Red Sox was $1.56, 10 years later it was $1.76. 13% increase. In 1970 the ticket price was $2.67, a 52% increase from 1960. In 1980 it was 4.88 an increase of 83% from 1970. I don't have 1990 but in 1992 Boston's ticket price was 11.67 an increase of 139% from 1980. What I'm showing you hear is that revenue grew at a relatively small steady rate for most of baseball history that we are talking about. Then starting in the 60's it started skyrocketing, and each decade afterwards grew at a faster rate then the previous one.

    In 1939 at the height of Baseball's golden age baseball salaries totaled 3.7 million dollars. In 1950 it totaled 6.9 million dollars. Under the slave system the players did not lose any level of standard of living. Salaries did not remain stagnant and depressed as revenue grew. AS the owners took in more money the players made more money.

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    the most effective weapons against the weilding of management's axe against you were 1) to produce and 2) to conduct yourself in a professional manner and ingratiate yourself to management or 3) to make yourself otherwise valuable

    players were not without power - as mentioned in the above plus they could draw the favor of the media and fans - at times there were opportunities to jump into upstart major leagues - there was also always the potential for litigation - money could also be made with independent and semi-pro clubs - as with everything in life there are choices - choose to stay an accept the company's terms or choose to move on

    however, the monopoly did wield a lot of power and the players were oppressed - landis was not seen as one who would help either - all were afraid of his arbitrary wrath

    the key was production on the field of play - if you were in the top echelon of players than you weilded a great deal of power - the balance i believe was weighed in their favor - however as your value decreased so did your bargaining position

    keep in mind that an overwhelming majority of contracts were signed and bargained amicably with good will maintained on both sides
    Last edited by Brian McKenna; 04-14-2006 at 09:44 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bkmckenna
    the most effective weapons against the wielding of management's Axe against you were 1) to produce and 2) to conduct yourself in a professional manner and ingratiate yourself to management or 3) to make yourself otherwise valuable

    players were not without power - as mentioned in the above plus they could draw the favor of the media and fans - at times there were opportunities to jump into upstart major leagues - there was also always the potential for litigation - money could also be made with independent and semi-pro clubs - as with everything in life there are choices - choose to stay an accept the company's terms or choose to move on

    however, the monopoly did wield a lot of power and the players were oppressed - Landis was not seen as one who would help either - all were afraid of his arbitrary wrath

    the key was production on the field of play - if you were in the top echelon of players than you wielded a great deal of power - the balance i believe was weighed in their favor - however as your value decreased so did your bargaining position

    keep in mind that an overwhelming majority of contracts were signed and bargained amicably with good will maintained on both sides
    Ah, Brian, c'mon now. You're letting the owners off too easily. Sure, all your points applied, but you're plastering a happy face on a situation that the players HAD to endure, with a smile. You're minimizing a really tough thing here.

    Let's say you're a star fielding SS, and your team needs you badly. And let's say you hit good too. Like Cronin. Under your optimistic scenario, your owner should have to deal with you fairly, due to his need of your services. Right? But wait, since your options are so severely cramped, he knows you really can't afford to hold out into the season. So your threatened hold-out weapon is marginalized. He knows that as the season approaches, and you are without a contract guaranteeing your security for one more year, the pressure is on YOU much more than it's on him. He can get other SSs. Can you get another gig? Where? Cuba? Mexico? Pacific Coast? Japan?????

    What more is spring training than an exercise where you try to get into your best shape, while the owner parades in your face a long queue of potential replacements that are all competing for your job. An exercise sure to undermine your sense of security where your job is concerned.

    Where you gonna go to make your living? Semi-pro pays dog food chump change compared to your $25K. You gonna go play in the Negro L.? See what I mean when I stress that your strength as a player is there, but the 'reserve clause' prevents you from bringing it to bear. You can't make the system work for you.

    My point of this thread is not that the player has NO leverage. Just that it is so distorted, so one-sided, that the annual ritual of signing contracts entailed a lot of humiliation.

    I reckon that if free agency had not happened in baseball, the stars today would be in the process of moving from $300,000. to 400,000. per season. A long way from what we now know is their true market value. Can you see my point now? In sharper relief?

    "keep in mind that an overwhelming majority of contracts were signed and bargained amicably with good will maintained on both sides". If they weren't, you'd be slashing your own wrists! Couldn't afford to get on the boss' bad side. Either of his bad sides.

    Bill
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 04-14-2006 at 10:54 AM.

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    --True market value is whatever someone is willing to pay. The reserve clause could not exist today. The market place has changed and those kind of restrictions would not be accepted by anybody, including the courts. It wasn't seen as such a hardship by most players when it existed.
    --In fact, many players were adverse to the idea of free agency as it was developing. They actually won complete and total freedom in arbitration (as in no six year wait, all player free to move whenever theri contract expires), but gave some of that freedom back because they thought it would be bad for the game. The rookie draft, the six year waiting period, etc, only exist because the Players Union allows them too,

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    By the same token an owner cannot afford to have a player hold-out or not play for him. The more money that is out there for baseball the more vulnerable it becomes to players demands and incursions from outside forces. Its why the owners have lost practically every single labor battle since the union formed. There is so much money at stake that an owner is a much more dangerous position then the player.

    With the money that is out there there is no way that top players would be making the money you think they would. Players were approaching that level before the leagues got busted up by the Messersmith case. If TV and Radio is willing to pay MLB team over 40 million a year and a team can bring in another 50 million a year in stadium revenue there is no way that players salaries would be kept so low. One it makes it to inviting and too possible for outside incursion. Its why the Japanese Leagues had to put up barriers and had create protectionist agreements to keep their players and it is why latin america is a feeder system to America. Latin America cannot keep their players even if the wanted too, they cannot compete with the salaries offered by MLB.

    Yes in MLB itself players had no rights but that doesn't mean they lived and worked in slave conditions. The owners did not pay Sandy Koufax 1,000 dollars a year. His hold out wasn't give me 100,000 dollars and O'Malley was saying I'll give you 1,000. Their loss was that they could not set their salary in a free market, and it should be noted that what we have now is not a free market either. This is the setup the players wanted, this shifts the balance over to the players. Which is just as unhealthy and as unfair as the balance being towards the owners. Nor does it serve a point to view it like "well its only fair" or "turn about is fair play".

    Players and owners were haggling over contracts but it wasn't some extreme rich/poor battle. Owners were not trying to pay stars journeymen wages, and regulars migrant worker wages. That wasn't happening.

    Player salaries are high now because the reverse is happening. The players through the CBA have controlled the supply of product so that owners must "overpay" for the product. What they are being paid now is the real pay level it is an overpay level. In a free market system the pay level in MLB would not be this high.

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    Quote Originally Posted by leecemark
    - but gave some of that freedom back because they thought it would be bad for the game. The rookie draft, the six year waiting period, etc, only exist because the Players Union allows them too,

    They gave them back not for the good of the game but because it made their position stronger. By controlling the supply they forced demand up. By releasing players slowly and in small supplies it stimulated bidding wars which droves prices up across the board. If every player was available all the time like they normally would in normal business environment wages would not be so high. This is what unions do, control a workforce so that wages and benefits are driven up. The reason why baseball is one of the most powerful and succesful unions ever is because they are free from outside influences. They do not have to compete on a global market. Whereas Auto unions should but usually don't play a balancing act of they want and what is healthy. Autoworker unions basically priced themselves right out of the job market. Its why japanese and european auto manufacturers swooped right in an seized the market in the 70's and 80's, and have basially turned the american auto industry into a shell of what it once was.

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    I am aware that some misguided players supported the 'reserve clause'. During the Congressional hearings in 1951, Ty Cobb testified in support of the reserve clause. Totally misguided. Just because a few lacked the forsight of vision, doesn't make them right.

    Today, we can see how much they lost. How much that system cost them. There were all kinds of gloom/doom predictions. Would bankrupt the owners. Would lead to the rich, large market franchises dominating the small market clubs. Nothing of the kind happened. The pennants have circulated more after free agency than before. The Yankees have NOT been able to buy pennants every season. They can buy great players, but not even that guarantees pennants, as the last few years showed.
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 08-04-2008 at 06:59 AM.

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    I am not pretending that there are no abuses going on at the players end today. I don't think a player is worth more than $10M per, in a completely free market.

    But the players took until the 70's to organize. Look how long it took them to organize?? Power unchecked will normally abuse itself. At either end.

    The leagues competing with the American MLs - Japanese, Mexican, Cuban, Latin American lack the finances to draw on their own talent pools 100%. Japan needs to erect walls to prevent the siphoning effect of the American monster.

    But as far as I know, no player is required to join the Player's Union. They have the right to stay out. But to all who still think the early players were content under the old system, let me tell you.

    Yes. Compared to their fellow Americans, they were well paid, and lived well. The stars lived lavishly, or should I say extravagantly, if not lavishly.

    But the journeymen did not make that much more than the average workers. Some members have suggested that all players did MUCH better than their fellow workers. The stars yes, the journeymen - the upper journeymen yes, the lower journeymen no. All the lower journeymen had to work winter jobs.

    There were probably few, if any, early ballplayers who could possibly have known how much of their standard of living that they were not realizing, due to the 'reserve clause'. Yes, they must have known that they were losing something. But I sincerely doubt if they could have guessed that they were so drastically losing a HUGE component of their living standards. I really doubt if all those nice people knew how much they were being screwed, with the lights on, and their eyes seemingly open.

    Many can be content, if they don't know they are entitled to a better life.

    Bill
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 10-05-2007 at 07:11 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by william_burgess@usa.net
    Ah, Brian, c'mon now. You're letting the owners off too easily. Sure, all your points applied, but you're plastering a happy face on a situation that the players HAD to endure, with a smile. You're minimizing a really tough thing here.

    Let's say you're a star fielding SS, and your team needs you badly. And let's say you hit good too. Like Cronin. Under your optimistic scenario, your owner should have to deal with you fairly, due to his need of your services. Right? But wait, since your options are so severely cramped, he knows you really can't afford to hold out into the season. So your threatened hold-out weapon is marginalized. He knows that as the season approaches, and you are without a contract guaranteeing your security for one more year, the pressure is on YOU much more than it's on him. He can get other SSs. Can you get another gig? Where? Cuba? Mexico? Pacific Coast? Japan?????

    What more is spring training than an exercise where you try to get into your best shape, while the owner parades in your face a long queue of potential replacements that are all competing for your job. An exercise sure to undermine your sense of security where your job is concerned.

    Where you gonna go to make your living? Semi-pro pays dog food chump change compared to your $25K. You gonna go play in the Negro L.? See what I mean when I stress that your strength as a player is there, but the 'reserve clause' prevents you from bringing it to bear. You can't make the system work for you.

    My point of this thread is not that the player has NO leverage. Just that it is so distorted, so one-sided, that the annual ritual of signing contracts entailed a lot of humiliation.

    I reckon that if free agency had not happened in baseball, the stars today would be in the process of moving from $300,000. to 400,000. per season. A long way from what we now know is their true market value. Can you see my point now? In sharper relief?

    "keep in mind that an overwhelming majority of contracts were signed and bargained amicably with good will maintained on both sides". If they weren't, you'd be slashing your own wrists! Couldn't afford to get on the boss' bad side. Either of his bad sides.

    Bill
    i did say the players were oppressed and though that was just one point it was the strongest word in my argument - i'm not in disagreement with you - they're all good points here - every point in this thread is valid

    as an aside - the reserve system was never eradicated - it still exists today in a modified version
    Last edited by Brian McKenna; 04-14-2006 at 12:17 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bkmckenna
    i did say the players were oppressed and though that was just one point it was the strongest word in my argument - I'm not in disagreement with you - they're all good points here - every point in this thread is valid

    as an aside - the reserve system was never eradicated - it still exists today in a modified version
    And I oppose the lingering remnants of that, the 6 yr. waiting period before one can declare free agency. I also oppose any form of draft. Any infringements on the free bargaining process distorts the market forces.

    I don't know if the Player's Union exerts any pressure/coercion on new players, but if so, I would oppose that also. I am a big advocate of supply/demand, laissez-fair capitalism - the free market.
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 01-10-2007 at 07:31 AM.

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    Just lost an entire post arrgh.

    In short.
    Yes a player does not have to join the union. But the union is his representative in labor talks with ownership. What the union and ownership agree on binds the non-union player as well as the union player. A player must wait for 6 years to be a free agent, and it doesn't matter whether or not he is in the union.


    Why should a low journeyman make more money then the average normal worker? Why should he get a premium? A low journeymen is a highly interchangeable and common commodity. If anything under a freer system then the reserve system ( a system that helps control the supply of talent) the low journeyman would have gotten paid even less money then he already was.

    Finally the doom and gloom that was predicted did happen. The small individual baseball owner was pushed out of baseball. Replaced by the faceless corporation and the really rich looking for a tax write off. Corporations are not concerned about long term health of baseball. They are concerned about their bottom line and making their stockholders happy. They do not act in the best interest of baseball or look further down the road. The rich owner is jumping in and out of baseball for the tax write off and the windfall of getting a new stadium or other goodie and then selling the team off. The new era of free agency and skyrocketing salaries pushed the small owners out and for better or worse these are the owners that made baseball the national past-time. Those owners are gone and for the most part the strong leadership that baseball enjoyed is gone and will probably never come back. It can't in this kind of environment. I doubt we will see an O'Malley or Veeck or Mack or Comiskey ever again. And we will definitely never see a Ban Johnson or Judge Landis again either. As long as corporations are the owners they will want a weak centralized powerbase with likeminded owners.

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    It's a moot question whether baseball is better off with the present corporate syndicates, or the old family dynasties. The list of baseball families were:

    Ebbets, Wrigley, Dreyfuss, Briggs, Veeck, Allyn, MacPhail, Yawkey, Griffith, Comiskey, Stoneham, Shibe, Busch, Bush. Probably a few I'm forgetting.

    Someone suggested that the famous families were not primarily baseball centered, but treated them like toys of amusement. It is equally tough to decide if the commissioners of late are an improvement over the early ones.

    Will a CEO of a faceless, anonymous syndicate, answering to a board/stockholders, act significantly different than a family patriarch? I don't know. A book could be written, arguing both ways. Why were the families squeezed out? If they could not make a success of their baseball businesses, maybe they were like dinosaurs, selected for extinction.

    I doubt if a credible case could be made that the blame could be placed on the Player's Union, or escalating salaries. They were an inevitable evolution of modern conditions. Society stopped seeing the reserve system as an equitable one. A new paradigm has to be created. Arbitration came first, before free agency. And the players won all the cases.

    Given enough time, non-market factors are selected for extinction. The free market is little more than the unfettered choices of people, operating outside the artificial conditions of government.

    Milton Burgess
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 01-10-2007 at 07:34 AM.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by leecemark
    --Well 100K went alot further in those days.
    Average monthly rent of a one bedroom apartment in New York City in 1930: $18.00
    Average monthly rent of a one bedroom apartment in New York City in 2005: $2,578.00

    When my grandfather immigrated in 1915, his family rented a two room apartment on Essex Street on the Lower East Side for $2 a week. Just for fun, I recently checked a listing for apartments in that area (which, while nowhere near as economically depressed now as it was in my grandfather's time, is still much closer to the slums of Alphabet City, just to the north, than the posh luxury of SoHo, just to the west), and the cheapest I could find for a one bedroom was $2,400.

    Going on that basis, you could say that somebody earning $100,000 in 1930 would be earning roughly $15 mill in today's dollars.

    Most of us don't sell our souls as a result.
    You obviously don't know many lawyers.
    "Simply put, the passion, interest and tradition surrounding baseball in New York is unmatched."

    Sean McAdam, ESPN.com

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    But now we would be arguing not about the reserve system but what is best for baseball and the fanbase. And what is best for baseball fans is most definitely not a free market system. The fans are better off and yes even the game better off with a strict and rigid caste system. One in which the players are property of the league to be meted out as they the league see best. A free market system is not best for fans because fans are not interested in evolution and changes in the sport. Now I don't mean that totally but I mean that fans in Chicago do not want to see their team go belly up or move because market factors have changed. They want a team in their town no matter what. They don't want it to cost 1,000 dollars a person to fund there team. We want to see our favorite players on our team for his entire career.

  20. #20
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    Under the old slave system, the players were paid more than the average American workers, because it was in the interests of the magnates for them to make more. If they didn't allow that to happen, who would have played ball for free? Few to none.

    So, the magnates saw to it that whatever was in their interests, happened, and happened in the range that they chose. The rate of increase was allowed to go up, because they could afford for that to happen, not because of the pressure of market forces. Someone posted as if the owners had no choices, but they really did. And they kept the salary ranges down all the way up to free agency.

    We would learn more by keeping our attention on the salary range of the lowest paid, where the masses of players were, instead of the top end elite, where only the few players were.

  21. #21
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    No we would learn more by looking at what the great masses of major league ballplayers were getting paid. The elite were scarce and needed, the dregs worthless, it is the middle and what they were paid that is important. The middle and even the bottom rung were paid well for their services. I am not concerned about what a 28 yr old third string catcher batting .182 and playing 30 games is getting paid. Though I will say that if I and he were both alive in say 1930 and I found out that this bottom rung player was getting paid more for a half years work then I was for a full years worth a work I would not be too sympathetic to his "plight". I guess I don't understand why I should be troubled by the fact that this catcher was only making 2,000 while the average american worker was making 1,800, and gasp he had to work year round as opposed going on vacation for 7 months like the elite players.

    What does that mean they kept the salary ranges down? How does one go about proving or disproving that? Its a simple statement to make but again it simply the first sentence in an extremely long and complicated theory.

    On top of that your wage views is what happens in all businesses. You pay someone a pay level because it is in your best interest to do it. Who is going to be a coalminer for free? So you must pay them enough to make it worth it for them to work for you. Baseball owners were no different in this regard then any other business owner out there.
    Last edited by Ubiquitous; 04-15-2006 at 12:06 AM.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by william_burgess@usa.net
    And I oppose the lingering remnants of that, the 6 yr. waiting period before one can declare free agency. I also oppose any form of draft. Any infringements on the free bargaining process distorts the market forces.

    I don't know if the Player's Union exerts any pressure/coercion on new players, but if so, I would oppose that also. I am a big advocate in supply/demand, laissez-fair capitalism - the free market.
    you're overlooking the investment clubs put into their players and their farm system - mlb doesn't exist in a bubble like the nba and nfl - mlb has to develop and train their talent - that takes money (it is not a moneymaker) - for this opportunity afforded the players the clubs have a legitimate right to expect something in return - what is granted is rights to the player for a specific amount of time or a specific amount of options - seems reasonable and wholly appropriate

    in japan the options go too far but you don't get professional training and the ability to advance your skills for nothing - someone needs to be in that business to make money - in football and basketball the universities make a lot of cake from that sport and thus become the de facto minor leagues

    baseball is the foremost skilled sport in the world - even if the universities could make money off of it (which they don't), mlb would still need to train and further develop the young men within a professional environment by professionals with the company's goals and objectives in mind

    laissez-faire is one thing but the players are getting a valuable service by the parent club while they are young - it is not free - it is not done out of the goodness of the company's heart - they company expects (and should expect) some type of payoff at the end of the rainbow

    at this time in a player's career they are merely apprentices - they willingly (and very much hope to) become apprentices and they trade this training for future consideration - seems wholly logical - quid pro quo

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    a lower-producing journeyman should have some degree of difficulty in negotiating a contract - it is expected - as one slips in production (or can only muster limited production) their value slips - as value slips, job security slips - as job security slips, so does negotiation power

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    MLB doesn't have to train and develop its own talent. They choose too do that.

    Nor is MLB's training and dveloping worth 3 years of absolute bondage and another 3 years of restrictions. Albert Pujols played a grand total of 133 minor league games over one season and for those 133 games Albert had no say over his contract for his first 3 years. He was besides Barry Bonds the best player in the game and for that he made 200,000, $600,000, and $900,000. Whatever investment they had in Albert they got back in spades his rookie season.

    Almost any player out there has repaid whatever "debt" he owes his club within the first two years of his major league service. With most paying it back the first year. And with good players there is no way the clubs investment totaled anything near the millions and millions of dollars they saved by keeping good players salaries absurdly low like they do in a players first 3 years.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ubiquitous
    No we would learn more by looking at what the great masses of major league ballplayers were getting paid. The elite were scarce and needed, the dregs worthless, it is the middle and what they were paid that is important. The middle and even the bottom rung were paid well for their services. I am not concerned about what a 28 yr old third string catcher batting .182 and playing 30 games is getting paid. Though I will say that if I and he were both alive in say 1930 and I found out that this bottom rung player was getting paid more for a half years work then I was for a full years worth a work I would not be too sympathetic to his "plight". I guess I don't understand why I should be troubled by the fact that this catcher was only making 2,000 while the average American worker was making 1,800, and gasp he had to work year round as opposed going on vacation for 7 months like the elite players.

    What does that mean they kept the salary ranges down? How does one go about proving or disproving that? Its a simple statement to make but again it simply the first sentence in an extremely long and complicated theory.

    On top of that your wage views is what happens in all businesses. You pay someone a pay level because it is in your best interest to do it. Who is going to be a coal miner for free? So you must pay them enough to make it worth it for them to work for you. Baseball owners were no different in this regard then any other business owner out there.
    Ubi,

    I realize that I do have a perchant for throwing out unknowable assertions. But this is not to frustrate my debate partners, but to get people to consider these views, not to 'prove' them. There may not be proofs, one way or another.

    My simple point was that the BB controllers held full control over the pay scale, top to bottom. Let's use 1920 as an example, since I know what a few of them made that season.

    The owners could well afford to pay 5 players the top range. Cobb set the limit, $20K. Followed by Speaker, Collins, W. Johnson. There were maybe 10 other players over $10K. Most of the good players were ranged between $2K to 10K.

    I don't believe there WAS a bottom range. I don't think a minimum came into being until the 40's or so. But in 1920, I believe the owners could pay a bench warmer as little as 500 bucks, just to serve as understudy and get his butt splintered.

    I am not overly concerned about that guy either. I'm only using him as my example of the difference in bargaining power under the 2 systems, reserve/free bargaining.

    Today, to sit in a ML dugout, they must pay something like $500.K/per yr.! And that is for doing the same services as the 1920's bench jockey. Understudy, learn, serve as standby in case someone gets hurt.

    The differences in the pay scale is just as dramatic at the bottom as at the top. Mostly, all we hear about is the top end, who made the most. Seldom do we see the small print, the aside, of what the minimum salary is. So few are interested in that level of information. Unless you're one of those competing for the right to warm that bench!

    That was all I was saying. The 2 systems are so dramatically different in what they allow a worker to expect.

    Wasn't trying to be controversial, or win a conversation. Just trying to make sense and get knowledge spread around, if that's possible.
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 04-15-2006 at 07:52 AM.

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