View From The Bleachers

July 19, 2016

The Reserve Clause

Filed under: Featured,General — Brad Lyerla @ 4:00 pm

When I started the day yesterday, I had no idea that I would be writing about the reserve clause for today’s Afternoon Quickie. But Sherm brought it up yesterday morning. We were commenting on the behavior of ball player’s and it was his theory that players today are more motivated by money than by a love of the game or loyalty to a team. He argued that it used to be better. I countered that it probably isn’t much different today than it was before because there have always been bad teammates, greedy owners and other jerks in the game.

But Sherm started me wondering about how much has changed in baseball since players’ salaries ballooned after the advent of free agency. This is the first installment of what will probably be a two-parter. In this first installment, I want to sketch out how free agency came about in the first place. Next time, I will write about the changes it has wrought.

We begin at the end of the National League baseball season of 1879. That year some owners introduced what became known as “the reserve clause”. This was a clause in a baseball player’s contract with his team that required that at the conclusion of the one-year contract, the player could not negotiate with any other team. Rather, the player agreed that he would negotiate for the next year only with the team with whom his contract had just expired.

Soon, all the owners were requiring ‘reserve clauses’ in their contracts with individual players. This had the effect of making a player the exclusive property of his ball club once he signed his first contract. Because there was no amateur draft until 1965, a player before then was a free agent until that first contract. But thereafter, the reserve clause prevented him from negotiating with anyone other than his current owner. This, of course, had the effect of preventing competition among owners for the services of baseball players from contract to contract. That, in turn, suppressed the price of those services.

In 1892, congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act. It prohibited concerted action in restraint of trade. Lawyers saw a problem for baseball. The conduct of the owners in concertedly requiring the reserve clause in player contracts looked like a violation of the Sherman Act. The issue did not come to a head until 1922.

At that time, the Supreme Court decided a case called Federal Baseball Club v. National League. The Court ruled for the owners, but on grounds having to do with the limits of congress’s power, not on the merits of whether the owners had acted anti-competitively. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote for the Court. He reasoned that baseball is not in interstate commerce. According to his opinion, major league baseball is just a collection of private teams that arrange for baseball exhibitions that each occur within a particular state. Because that activity does not occur in interstate commerce, the Sherman Act does not apply to Major League Baseball. Major league baseball not in interstate commerce!?! That, of course, was pure nonsense then and is more so today. But the decision has never been over-ruled. It lives on and is sometimes cited as the worst piece of legal reasoning ever to have been penned by Justice Holmes, one of our greatest jurists. (Baseball gets the best of even the very smartest of us eventually. He was a Boston fan, so . . . you know.)

Despite its obvious anti-competitive effect, it was not the courts that ended the reserve clause. That happened in a series of arbitrations conducted in the ‘70s under the player’s Basic Agreement. In 1965, the players formed a union and the union negotiated the first Basic Agreement with the owners. The BA incorporated the reserve clause – that is, the union agreed that the clause was retained as a part of every player’s contract with his team. But the BA also set up a grievance process that included arbitration. Eventually, that process would be the undoing of the reserve clause.

It seemed to some that the reserve clause had always had a loophole. What would happen if a player negotiated in good faith for a year, but did not agree to a new contract? Would he in the following year be a free agent?

In the 1974 season, Catfish Hunter had a grievance with Charlie Finley, owner of the A’s. Hunter was the reigning Cy Young award winner, but Finley had not funded certain deferred benefits in violation of Hunter’s contract. Hunter had the contract voided for the year, meaning that he had played for a year with no contract. The arbitrator ruled that Hunter was, therefore, a free agent for the 1975 season. He signed an enormous new multi-year contract with the Yankees.

The next year, Andy Messersmith of the Dodgers and Dave McNally of the Expos, did not sign a contract and played for the season unsigned. (McNally had actually retired half way through the season, but did not complete the documentation to make his retirement official.) At the end of the season, the union, on the players’ behalf, initiated arbitration and Messersmith and McNally were declared free agents for the 1976 season. Effectively, this was the end of the reserve clause. Every player could achieve free agency by playing with no new contract for a year (during that year, their compensation would be determined under the BA).

In the next Basic Agreement, the reserve clause was removed and free agency became available to all players subject to a set of restrictions, which were negotiated into the BA. I will describe those restrictions the next time.

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Organizational Recap: Balancing the Books

Filed under: Featured,General — Joe Aiello @ 6:30 am

Mets 1 @ Cubs 5 (Box Score)

This past week, Pat Hughes mentioned that the Mets were coming to town and that it was time for the Cubs to balance the books with them. Things have been heavily shifted to the Mets side lately, with them winning 8 in a row against us dating back to last year. Last night the Cubs answered that and took game one decisively.

  • Another great outing by our pitching staff, this time by Jon Lester. Do you think the pitching staff is back from their funk and ready for a run in the 2nd half?
  • Willson Contreras appears to have won over Joe Maddon‘s heart and secured a starting, everyday job. Considering the Indians just lost Yan Gomes to a separated shoulder, would a trade of Miguel Montero to Cleveland, with the Cubs eating some of the money left next year, make sense. Obviously you wouldn’t get pieces that help this season, but if the Cubs were to make that deal, sending Montero to Cleveland and getting a young prospect arm in return, would you be happy?
  • Do the Mets still scare you, considering they’ve lost Matt Harvey for the season, Noah Syndergaard dealing with some elbow discomfort, and Steven Matz dealing with a bone spur in his elbow that could cause him to be shelved at any time. They don’t scare me quite like they did a couple months ago.


AAA – Trevor Cahill – 2.2 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K

AA – Paul Blackburn – 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K

A-Adv – Jonathan Martinez – 6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K

A –Ryan Kellogg – 5 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K

SS – Oscar De La Cruz – 4 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K


AAA – Dan Vogelbach (DH) – 4 for 5, HR

AA – Ben Carhart (C) – 2 for 4

A-Adv – Gleyber Torres (SS) – 4 for 5, 2 2B, 3B, 3 R, 3 RBI

A – Bryant Flete (3B) – 2 for 4, HR, 2 RBI

SS – Robert Garcia (LF) – 2 for 4, 2B, R


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July 18, 2016

Organizational Recap: Always Buy the “S” Model

Filed under: Featured,General — Joe Aiello @ 6:36 am

Rangers 4 @ Cubs 1 (Box Score)

WE SHOULD HAVE BOUGHT THE “S” MODEL – On Saturday, the Cubs ran out Jason Hamel to the mound. While his outing was good, he has known bugs that prevent him from being functional for long periods of time. We’ve taken him back to the manufacturer and then got him back and were told the issues were fixed only to see the same issues happen last year. The functionality of Hamel just doesn’t last well. Now, there is an “S” model, known has Hamels that is much better and much more stable. The Rangers have that model and decided to show it off to us at our house yesterday. Let’s just say that I’m jealous. I want the Cole Hamels model.

EVERYTHING OK BRO? – Is it just me or does John Lackey look like he’s in pain while on the mound? He’s constantly squinting and looking like he’s constipated and working something out. Don’t get me wrong, I like Lackey and I’m happy he’s on this team, but he just looks uncomfortable out there. It sort of makes me uncomfortable. He tossed a decent outing yesterday, but got no run support. It is what it is. When it comes down to it, we won a series out of the break against a tough AL team. Let’s take it and focus on avenging a Mets sweep from earlier this year.


AAA – Brian Matusz – 5 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

AA – Michael Wagner – 4 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K

A-Adv – Zach Hedges – 6 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K

A – Carson Sands – 2.2 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 2 K

SS – Pedro Silverio – 4 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 K


AAA – Juan Perez (RF) – 1 for 4, 2B

AA – Ian Happ (2B) – 2 for 5, 2B, 2 R

A-Adv – David Bote (1B) – 2 for 3, RBI

A – Donnie Dewees (CF) – 3 for 4, R

SS – Chris Pieters (1B) – 2 for 5, RBI


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July 17, 2016

Organizational Recap: Is That All Yu Got?

Filed under: Featured,General — Joe Aiello @ 7:33 am

Rangers 1 @ Cubs 3 (Box Score)

YU IS PRETTY GOOD – Since I don’t watch much any baseball other than Cubs baseball, this was the first time I had a chance to see Yu Darvish pitch, and that joker is good. The scary thing is that he’s just coming off an injury, so there is rust there. He has tremendous movement and an arsenal of pitches that sort of reminds you of Aunt Mae’s medicine cabinet. There is a little bit of everything in there. When he had five strikeouts in the first two innings, I feared it would be a long day, but the Cubs did enough with being patient and working counts to get him out of there before completing five innings. The Rangers will be a tough out in a short series with Darvish and Cole Hamels going 1, 2.

THE GOOD HAMMEL – Before the game, I posted a poll asking what type of Jason Hammel start people thought we would get. Here were the results.

If you chose good Hammel, you win. We have seen him deal with cramping and there was a story that came out that said he was going to be working on that by eating potato chips to try to find the correct balance of hydration and sodium and it seemed to work yesterday. To be honest, I expected that we would get at least one shot of him eating chips in the dugout, but unless I missed it, we got none. We did, however, get two instances of Len Kasper losing his #$@&%* when he thought a ball was a home run to right field. Neither were even close.

BACKUP POWER – Both Tommy La Stella and Matt Szczur made big impacts in the game yesterday and both are considered role players on this team. For Szczur, it was the second day in a row in almost identical circumstances that he came through with a big hit up the middle. I like our bench and it’s ability to do the little things at the plate to be successful. It’s not easy to be a role guy and get thrown in there to face Darvish, but La Stella did a stellar job. Those two, in particular, give the Cubs a great left / right combo off the bench.

I’m not sure what is going on with Pierce Johnson this year, but it’s not been good for him. He comes in as our #11 prospect in the system according to MLB Pipeline and this has been a forgettable year for him. He tossed another tough start yesterday and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him bounced from the top 30 in the system when the mid-season ranking comes out.


AAA – Pierce Johnson – 4.1 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 4 BB, 5 K’s

AA – Jen-Ho Tseng – 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

A-Adv – Jake Stinnett – 5.1 IP, 11 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

A – Adbert Alzolay – 6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

SS – Jesus Castillo – 4 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K


AAA – Munenori Kawasaki (SS) – 2 for 2, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB

AA – Bijan Rademacher (LF) – 3 for 4, 2B, RBI, R, BB

A-Adv – Gleyber Torres (SS) – 2 for 4, 2 2B, 4 RBI, 2 R, 3 BB

A – Donnie Dewees (CF) – 2 for 4, 3B, 2 RBI, R

SS – DJ Wilson (CF) – 1 for 3, 2B, 3 RBI


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July 16, 2016

Organizational Recap: Back On Track?

Filed under: Featured,General — Joe Aiello @ 7:10 am

Rangers 0 @ Cubs 6 (Box Score)

The Cubs ended the 1st half on a high note with a win against the Pirates and they started the 2nd half the right way with a dominant win over the Rangers.

  • Normally you would see your ace get the nod to start the 2nd half, and that’s why the Cubs started Kyle Hendricks. I kid, but Hendricks, out of all the other arms on this staff, has pitched the best as of late and he had another good outing yesterday. I admit that I was a little worried in the 1st inning when the Rangers were threatening to score, but he got out of it and really didn’t get himself into any other jams. There are a lot of people that I’ve seen that have said to trade Hendricks. I don’t agree. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him, even yet.
  • Addison Russell got the start in the 5th spot in the lineup for only the 5th time this year and made the most of it as a run producer. He hit a nice double and scored and then drove in a pair of runs in the big 6th inning. Russell has been a clutch hitter this year in high leverage situations (game changing situations). In 67 plate appearances so far this year in those situations, Russell has hit .383 / .448 / .650 with 9 extra base hits and 26 RBI. He’s be a guy you want up there in big situations. The problem has come in the medium to low situations, where he’s hit much worse. I don’t know if it’s sample size or another reason, but it’s something I’m interested in watching more.
  • Prior to the game, the Cubs made a pair of roster moves, bringing Clayton Kershaw Richard back from the DL replacing Trevor Cahill who hits the DL with tendinitis in his right knee. David Ross was also brought back from the 7 day concussion DL and took the place of Munenori Kawasaki, who is Japanese.
  • Joel Peralta has cleared waivers after being designated for assignment before the break and he’s elected free agency rather than being sent to the minors.


AAA – Jake Buchanan – 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K

AA – Tyler Skulina – 0.1 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

A-Adv – Erick Leal – 5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

A – Kyle Miller – 5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

SS – Manuel Rondon – 4 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K


AAA – Juan Perez (CF) – 2 for 2, 3 R, 2B, 3B, RBI, BB

AA – Trey Martin (CF) – 1 for 3

A-Adv – Ian Rice (DH) – 2 for 5, 2 RBI, BB

A – Bryant Flete (3B) – 1 for 3, 3B, 2 RBI

SS – Marcus Mastrobuoni (C) – 2 for 5, 2B, R, 3 RBI


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