Let's suppose you're a carpenter who has been working for The Acme Construction Company for the last 25 years. You started as an apprentice at $2.05 an hour but now earn $14.05 along with time and a half for overtime. It's not a bad living. At times it almost seems worthwhile. You have your own house in a rural community and enough money tucked away for retirement and to send your children to college. The company has been good to you, but you feel stuck almost like you're not advancing or pursuing your idea of the American Dream.
Across town, The Park Avenue Builders Company offers you a job as foreman with twice as much money involved. You accept the position. Acme doesn't scream, it merely shrugs and promotes another apprentice. The same thing is now happening in Major League Baseball, only on a much bigger scale. And that's the contributing factor why the season will probably open with empty stadium seats across the professional baseball circuit.
Regardless of what happens from here on out, 1981 may go down as the landmark season for our national past time. It could be the year baseball is shocked into reality by the fact that spectator sports, such as professional baseball, are no longer just fun and games, but a part of everyday commercial life.
For instance, the relation between owner and player is no different than the carpenter and his boss, or of any other free enterprises, such as the auto industry or common labor. The key to the current strike threat is the free agent compensation issue. Free agency was given birth in 1976 after an arbitrator and the courts ruled against the reserve clause, which had made the ballplayer a club slave until the organization decides to trade or discard the property. Free agency means freedom to players. As contracts run out, players began putting themselves on the open market and reaping salaries that defied belief.
Owners complained they couldn't afford the bidding. They quipped without superstars they couldn't win world championships. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn compared the delema to a ticking time bomb. But the complaining owners kept dealing out million dollar contracts. Then four years ago players agreed to permit a team losing a player via free agency to receive compensation for that player. Owners thought it was inadequate.
In the newest negotiations, owners have demanded that any club signing a free agent who was drafted by more than seven teams must give up one of its roster players after protecting their top 15. Ballplayers, once they fulfill their contract obligation, should be able to sell their skills to the highest bidding club. Owners can fork out as much as their pocketbooks and shareholders will allow. It's time to forget about compensation.
When Lee Iacocca went from Ford Motor Company to The Chrysler Corporation, should Chrysler have to throw in two vice presidents and all unsold Dodge vehicles? Or how about when Barbara Walters switched from NBC to ABC? Should ABC have to pitch in Frank Gifford and two top news anchors? It's a fact of life that in industry and business, big companies steal young bright executives all the time. So let's forget the idea of ballplayers being spoiled and ruining the game of baseball with their demands.
Why blame Reggie Jackson for making $3.2 million in five years when actor Robert Redford receives $4 million for one motion picture. Let professional baseball players put their talent on the shelf and let the bidding begin. After all, isn't that how the big boys play the game?
Hey there. I'm Rick Coe and thanks for stumbling on to my blog which contains columns I wrote while working for the now defunct Kellogg Evening News which was located in Kellogg, Idaho.