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Posts Tagged ‘montreal expos’

By Matt

LeBron James is joining his buddies in Miami in the ultimate expression of free-agency.  This is what the strengthening of players rights to dictate their own careers has been working towards.  The revolution that Curt Flood started decades ago has reached its zenith.  Let’s take a look at how we got here:

On September 29, 1879 at a meeting in Buffalo, NY National League owners colluded to keep salaries down by agreeing to reserve five players, untouchable by any other team.  What was at first a gentleman’s agreement soon became standard practice.  Five players soon turned into 11 in 1883, 12 in 1886 and 14 in 1887 with the latter being the first time a reserve clause had been written into a player’s contract.  Though the clause was deemed unconstitutional several times it wasn’t seriously opposed until 1969 when Curt Flood refused to report to Philadelphia Phillies training camp after being traded from the St. Louis Cardinals.  The reserve clause basically meant that the Phillies owned him.  But Flood did not want to play in Philadelphia, didn’t show up for camp and took the issue to court in an anti-trust suit.  He lost.  What he started would finally be finished in 1975 when Andy Messersmith of the Dodgers and Dave McNally or your Montreal Expos played the 1975 season without signing contracts and with the reserve clause no longer applicable, hit the market as free agents.  With players able to play anywhere they wished salaries sky-rocketed and leagues that had previously adopted caps only to reject them began re-instituting them.  The NBA actually had a cap for one year in the mid 1940’s.  By the early 1980’s salaries had, according to owners, become out of control and in 1984 it was reinstated (the cap that year?  $3.6 million).  That 1984 cap is basically the one that’s in place now and though players had before teamed up in isolated cases there’s been nothing on this scale before pro in basketball.

Will we see more of this in the future?  In the NBA, I doubt it very much.  Basketball is a sport uniquely suited to the one-superstar-plus-role-players system and if a player can’t carry a team on his back to a championship he’ll never be on the truly great ones.  In basketball winning is first and foremost the star’s responsibility.  Who’s really the all-time great on a team of stars?

I guess I should throw in one more Expos reference to make this a little more apropos.  Where and when did Curt flood collect his first Major League hit?  On April 14, 1969 against Larry Jaster of the Montreal Expos.  It was a double in the first inning of the Expos inaugural home game.

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