This article is free for anyone to read, but please consider becoming a Patreon subscriber to allow me to keep writing posts like this one. Sign up to receive articles like this one in your inbox here.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be emailing out sections of a larger story, titled “Labor peace is a lie.” Here’s part two, on free agency, collusion, and the strikes of the 1980s. If you missed any of the other five parts, you can find them here.
Free agency, and owners’ rights to players
Building on the work of Curt Flood before them, players in 1975 finally, officially, challenged for free agency. In the previous CBA negotiations in ‘73, players broached the free agency topic, but came away with a sort of pseudo-arbitration instead, as they were allowed to negotiate their salaries in front of arbitrators after they had two full seasons in the majors.
It would not be long before players took things a step further, as Flood had before. They allowed their teams to renew their contracts, but did so while saying that the reserve clause Flood had challenged that owners clung to did not give teams perpetual rights to a player’s services, but a one-year option. If the player allowed a contract to be renewed once but did not sign, they would then be free to sign elsewhere in the future. While teams did not agree, arbitrator Peter Seitz did, and suddenly, there was chaos.