Even if the reserve clause is completely dumped, there may be some minuses for players. With operating costs going up, there likely would be fewer farm teams, and thus fewer baseball-playing opportunities. And management everywhere is quick to say every team has a number of average players whom they would just as soon see play out their options. This means younger—read, lower paid—players would have better chances of making the majors.
Further, players have a public-relations problem themselves. The average major league baseball salary in 1975 was about $45,000—ranging from Oakland's $60,000 to Montreal's $31,000. That is for less than eight months' work. Plus a pension, $23-a-day meal money, first-class plane tickets, hotels and ground transportation. Although in all fairness, you can't compare playing major league baseball to, say, working for an insurance company—careers are short and uncertain, and to qualify for the job the applicant needs extraordinary skills.
One club that went nowhere last year—and will not this year—paid these salaries to its 25-man roster: three earned the minimum $16,000, two received $17,000, three got $18,000, two made $34,000, two got $40,000, and the rest earned $20,000, $23,000, $24,500, $25,500, $31,000, $32,500, $35,000, $36,500, $42,500, $45,000, $75,000, $90,000 and $125,000. That's $889,500, an average of $35,540.
So while the so-called freedom issue looms large, economics still is the heart of the problem—on both sides. History teaches that when somebody says it's not the money but the principle, it's the money.