When Major League Baseball Players Association president Marvin Miller was negotiating with major league owners at the dawn of free agency in the mid 1970s, he knew something that many of the myopic owners failed to grasp.
Miller wanted free agency for players—but not all at once.
The Athletics’ Charlie Finley was the lone owner who seemed to grasp the concept. He proposed that all major league players be granted free agency annually. That was Miller’s nightmare scenario. Free agency would unleash salaries for players who had long been hamstrung by the reserve clause that bound players to teams in perpetuity. But total free agency would flood the market, crushing players’ earning potential.
As the book “Lords of the Realm” explained, the MLBPA would have a hard time turning down complete free agency if it were offered, since they had just spent years in the courts trying to earn players their freedom.
Because it was Finley, who was seen as a renegade by other Major League Baseball owners, the rest of the owners disregarded his idea and instead proposed free agency after 10 years. Miller’s nightmare was avoided. Eventually, the two sides agreed to free agency after six seasons in the majors. And salaries, as Miller expected, began to soar.
Miller’s nightmare is likely to become reality—to some extent—this offseason. Free agents are going to flood the market like never before. The pandemic has sped up many of the trends that were already underway. The reasonably well-paid MLB veteran is becoming an endangered species. And with many teams trying to cut payroll, there will be few teams looking for bargains.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
OLD MEETS NEW
Brian Snitker expertly navigated the Braves to a third straight division title despite myriad pitching injuries
Focusing on the Northeast pays off for the Indians
Over the past few years, the Indians have mined the Northeast for talent. The 2020 team got big-time contributions from former college righthanders Aaron Civale (Northeastern) and James Karinchak (Bryant). Waiting in the wings are three more prospects from the region, all from high school: third baseman Nolan Jones (Bensalem, Pa.), catcher Bo Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) and righthander Lenny Torres (Beacon, N.Y). All five of those players were signed by area scout Mike Kanen, a former Baseball America intern. BA recently spoke with Kanen about his first impressions of those players. The interview is edited for brevity.
Bobby Dickerson was integral in transforming the Padres’ infield from error-prone to October-caliber
TRUST THE TOOLS
The minor league season was lost, but dynasty players should keep the faith for these nine prospects
HISTORY IN THE MAKING: FEW TEAMS CAN MATCH THE DODGERS' DOMINANCE
The 2020 Dodgers led the National League in runs scored and fewest runs allowed.
From scouting to player development to analytics to acquisition, the Dodgers cover all the bases as baseball’s model franchise.
COAST TO COAST
Andrew Friedman has more money to play with in Los Angeles than he did in Tampa Bay, but his core principles remain unchanged— just like the results
WINTER OF DISCONTENT
The hot stove could quickly turn to deep freeze
A MODERN-DAY CRASH DAVIS
Cody Decker mashed his way into the hearts of minor league fans
A LASTING LEGACY
All-star player. Decorated manager. Ambassador for the Dominican Republic. Felipe Alou wore many hats, but above all he was a pioneer who helped pave the way for generations of Latino players.
2021 TOPPS PRO DEBUT CHROME GOES BACK TO THE MINORS
2021 Topps Pro Debut Baseball offers the annual flagship-style look at minor league baseball.
EARLY LOOK AT 2021 TOPPS TRIBUTE
THE PRODUCT HAS SOME BIG-TIME HITS
FAT'S IN FIRE FOR A-ROD & J.LO!
She’s nagging about weight, but sports big doesn’t care
Turn a Classic Wooden Bat
Learn how to beat the chatter.
GOT QUESTIONS ON 2020 BOWMAN CHROME BASEBALL?
WE’VE GOT ANSWERS
A sofa, the site of a family’s history, receives and gives a second life.
TOXIC MASCULINITY WHISKEY
While many veteran-owned businesses are small or fledgling, this one truly puts the start in “start-up.”
THE GAMES MUST GO ON
COVID-19 UPENDED THE NBA, THE NFL, THE NHL, AND MLB. HOW THE PROFESSIONAL SPORTS LEAGUES RESPONDED OFFERS A GLIMPSE INTO OUR FUTURE.
FULLY LOADED Fernando Tatis Jr. does it all
Stop me if you have heard this before: Baseball is in trouble. The game has lived through more than its share of scandals, work stoppages, and demographic challenges. And that was just in 2020.
LOOKING BACK...AND AHEAD
2021 TOPPS BASEBALL SERIES 1 CELEBRATES 70 YEARS OF THE BRAND’S RELEASE