Early Contraction

added 2/27/2002 by Gene Elston
There is no question the quality of our lives has improved over the last 100 years. However, very often today we hear the phrase "life used to be so simple."

Life WAS simple in the National League in 1900 when the circuit decided the 12-club league was too unyielding and top-to-bottom, competition was nigh impossible, the league voted to reduce to an eight-club organization.

Four teams were told to ''take a hike''! (Louisville, Cleveland, Washington and Baltimore). Life was simpler because those teams' only recourse was to demand total indemnification, which they received. This would include some 70 players as well as the franchises, and the four clubs had the right to dispose of the players they controlled without outside interference.

I'll repeat, life was simpler then because there was no middle man, or to be more specific, no UNION. Now, I have nothing against unions, I belong to one myself. There was, however, at that time a simple explanation - the league did what they had the RIGHT to do, decide how many teams they wanted. The players under contract to the four teams expelled were acquired through free agency, purchase or trade and those teams had full rights for their distribution to other clubs.

It sounds so simple, yet today when contraction was proposed the union was waiting to get in on the act - as if they had some financial investment (without expenses) in major league baseball as well as the disposition of the players.

For the past 35 years baseball owners have been putty in the hands of the Players Association. Beginning in 1966, when Marvin Miller took over the union, major league baseball began to lose control of their own destiny. Miller first struck at minimum salary; then, bargained the increase of payments to the players pension fund; owners approved the 10-5 rule to veto trades; the owners win one when Miller gives up the fight for free agency by substituting arbitration - the owners are sucked in; Miller suggests Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally agree to play the 1975 season without contracts - BINGO! - through arbitration the two players are declared free agents -- now the union has both free agency AND arbitration -- then collusion.

The Players Association has become so powerful they believe they are part of management. Here's the routine: The owners suggest - the union takes them to arbitration.

Elimination of teams was SIMPLE in 1900. It may not be as simple today as it once was, however the rights of the leagues and the teams' control of their players hasn't changed. Major league baseball controls the National and American Leagues and the thirty teams comprising those two leagues own their own players. -- or is that an over simplification.

Gene Elston - 2-26-02

Reprinted with permission from the E-Z Board Astros Forum

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