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Thread: Baseball's first free agency system

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    Et tu, Brutus? Brutus's Avatar
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    Baseball's first free agency system

    I've been doing some reading on the events that eventually precipitated the destruction of the reserve system in baseball. In reading some articles and the 1976-1979 collective bargaining agreement - the first that contained free agency - I was amazed at how the first system was set up.

    Most folks that were in adulthood by the late 70's probably already know this, but for me it was interesting.

    When the first batch of players to sign contracts after August 10, 1976 became free agents, there was a free agent 'draft' held each season. The clubs would make draft selections in rotating order, worst to first, picking the players they'd like to have negotiating rights with.

    The draft continued until each club passed. A player could be picked by up to 12 clubs, not including his former team. Once a player was picked by 12 clubs, he was no longer eligible to be picked, and those teams has rights to negotiate with the player. If two or fewer teams picked a player, he was free to negotiate with any club. Players could still negotiate with any team, provided they reached mid-February without a contract, but the negotiation rights gave picking teams first dibs essentially.

    It's somewhat remarkable to me that the system of service time, arbitration, options and assignments have largely remained unchanged in 35 years. There is only a small difference in arbitration eligibility (it was initially 2 years service and playing in at least three separate seasons), but the structure and procedures were mostly the same.

    Well, in any event, I found this interesting. For some it might just be a refresher, for others it might be a history lesson.
    "No matter how good you are, you're going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you're going to win one-third of your games. It's the other third that makes the difference." ~Tommy Lasorda

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball's first free agency system

    Every time the Reds turn came up Howsam stood up and said...

    "The Cincinnati Reds pass."

    And so it began.

    The day after the first draft was an amazing day as a fan... a real shift in the game

  4. #3
    Et tu, Brutus? Brutus's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball's first free agency system

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou View Post
    Every time the Reds turn came up Howsam stood up and said...

    "The Cincinnati Reds pass."

    And so it began.

    The day after the first draft was an amazing day as a fan... a real shift in the game
    Was the draft televised in any capacity, WOY?

    It definitely was a huge change in the game.
    "No matter how good you are, you're going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you're going to win one-third of your games. It's the other third that makes the difference." ~Tommy Lasorda

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    Member hebroncougar's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball's first free agency system

    Quote Originally Posted by Brutus View Post
    I've been doing some reading on the events that eventually precipitated the destruction of the reserve system in baseball. In reading some articles and the 1976-1979 collective bargaining agreement - the first that contained free agency - I was amazed at how the first system was set up.

    Most folks that were in adulthood by the late 70's probably already know this, but for me it was interesting.

    When the first batch of players to sign contracts after August 10, 1976 became free agents, there was a free agent 'draft' held each season. The clubs would make draft selections in rotating order, worst to first, picking the players they'd like to have negotiating rights with.

    The draft continued until each club passed. A player could be picked by up to 12 clubs, not including his former team. Once a player was picked by 12 clubs, he was no longer eligible to be picked, and those teams has rights to negotiate with the player. If two or fewer teams picked a player, he was free to negotiate with any club. Players could still negotiate with any team, provided they reached mid-February without a contract, but the negotiation rights gave picking teams first dibs essentially.

    It's somewhat remarkable to me that the system of service time, arbitration, options and assignments have largely remained unchanged in 35 years. There is only a small difference in arbitration eligibility (it was initially 2 years service and playing in at least three separate seasons), but the structure and procedures were mostly the same.

    Well, in any event, I found this interesting. For some it might just be a refresher, for others it might be a history lesson.

    I did not know that. Thanks for sharing. Where are you finding your info?

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball's first free agency system

    Quote Originally Posted by Brutus View Post
    Was the draft televised in any capacity, WOY?

    It definitely was a huge change in the game.
    Nah, just read about it the next day and the following week in TSN

    And this SI article -

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vau...1665/index.htm

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    Et tu, Brutus? Brutus's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball's first free agency system

    Quote Originally Posted by hebroncougar View Post
    I did not know that. Thanks for sharing. Where are you finding your info?
    Well, I read several articles about it that had bits and pieces, but the process is described in the CBA itself. I have a copy if you want to read through it. It's also uploaded, or at least was, on Maury Brown's Biz of Baseball site.
    "No matter how good you are, you're going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you're going to win one-third of your games. It's the other third that makes the difference." ~Tommy Lasorda

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball's first free agency system

    This book is awesome for that subject

    Lords of the Realm:: The Real History of Baseball

  9. #8
    Member hebroncougar's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball's first free agency system

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou View Post
    This book is awesome for that subject

    Lords of the Realm:: The Real History of Baseball
    I may have to look for that at 1/2 price books. I'm a kindle kind of guy, but that price is way up. Thanks.

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    Re: Baseball's first free agency system

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou View Post
    This book is awesome for that subject

    Lords of the Realm:: The Real History of Baseball
    I've re-read parts of that book even more than I've referred back to Moneyball. Some great quotes and lines in there, e.g.:

    "Gentlemen, we have the only legal monopoly in the country and we're (bad word)ing it up." -- Ted Turner
    Not all who wander are lost

  11. #10
    Knowledge Is Good Big Klu's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball's first free agency system

    I believe the first player the Reds ever signed through the free agent draft was Larry Biittner prior to the 1981 season.
    Eric Stratton, Rush Chairman. Damn glad to meet ya.

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    Vampire Weekend @Bernie's camisadelgolf's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball's first free agency system

    Quote Originally Posted by Big Klu View Post
    I believe the first player the Reds ever signed through the free agent draft was Larry Biittner prior to the 1981 season.
    The signing may have been a letdown, but I can't blame the Reds for doing it. After all, he was averaging over 20 strikeouts per 9 innings.

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    Member paulrichjr's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball's first free agency system

    Quote Originally Posted by Brutus View Post
    Was the draft televised in any capacity, WOY?

    It definitely was a huge change in the game.
    Just curious but how old are you? I'm 44 and I found this humorous. As a kid growing up at this time you looked forward to Monday nights because ABC had Monday night baseball on. One game all week is all I can remember being on besides the Saturday game on NBC. Scores? Good luck. Get your paper the next day to find out what the Reds did. And if they played on the West Coast you had to wait for 2 days. A televised draft? That would have been amazing for a young baseball fan except we all hated free agency. Hated it! It took me years to get over this bias toward free agency. I remember my son a couple of years ago saying he liked the offseason almost as much as the season because you get to follow the news of who is signing who and trades. I looked at him like he had lost his mind and then it dawned on me that I liked it also.
    Tim McCarver: Baseball Quotes
    I remember one time going out to the mound to talk with Bob Gibson. He told me to get back behind the batter, that the only thing I knew about pitching was that it was hard to hit.

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    Moderator RedlegJake's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball's first free agency system

    Quote Originally Posted by paulrichjr View Post
    Just curious but how old are you? I'm 44 and I found this humorous. As a kid growing up at this time you looked forward to Monday nights because ABC had Monday night baseball on. One game all week is all I can remember being on besides the Saturday game on NBC. Scores? Good luck. Get your paper the next day to find out what the Reds did. And if they played on the West Coast you had to wait for 2 days. A televised draft? That would have been amazing for a young baseball fan except we all hated free agency. Hated it! It took me years to get over this bias toward free agency. I remember my son a couple of years ago saying he liked the offseason almost as much as the season because you get to follow the news of who is signing who and trades. I looked at him like he had lost his mind and then it dawned on me that I liked it also.
    Brings back memories. I too hated free agency when it dawned. It was wrecking baseball - how dare they suggest that Pete Rose could simply decide to leave the Reds?! Or Don Gullett? Dammit! They're screwing up the Big Red Machine! The Reds waited eons to get a great team and now they're gonna wreck it! And of course, the fact that the Reds refused to have anything at all to do with it and simply let the rest of baseball blow on by them basically set them up for the basement years of the 80s. Howsam and company made a valiant effort to keep up by trades, though, and had the commish not interfered who knows? But compared to todays games on everyday and all the games for a fee anytime you want sports then was what you could read in the newspaper. And if you were out of your home town? Foret it! All you had to go on was a box score because there was no news about your Cincinnati Reds in Camp Pendleton California where I was serving. I bought a script to SportingNews to keep up because there was no other news at all.

  15. #14
    All Fired Up Revering4Blue's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball's first free agency system

    Quote Originally Posted by Big Klu View Post
    I believe the first player the Reds ever signed through the free agent draft was Larry Biittner prior to the 1981 season.
    Correct.

    The first free agent the Reds actively pursued was, believe it or not, Tommy John, who signed instead with the Yankees in '79. IIRC, the Reds also pursued Lee Lacy, who signed with the Pirates.
    "I have just been more than a little suspect of all the trades since the Willy (Scott Williamson) cash grab. That one left such a bad taste in my mouth that even a 1985 Dom Pérignon couldn't cleanse it." -- Creek14

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    Re: Baseball's first free agency system

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou View Post
    This book is awesome for that subject

    Lords of the Realm:: The Real History of Baseball
    Didn't the players offer to have FA after 8-10 years and the owners refused? They never thought Seitz would rule against them.


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