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But waiting around for more money made no sense to Campbell. "Look, this business seems insane to me," he says. "No player is really worth what they're paying me, but if they want to, then fine. Maybe I could have gotten more if I'd waited, but at the end of the season my wife and I wrote down our preferences. Both of us chose Boston first. Besides, what would I do with more money? I can't conceive of the difference between $150,000 and $200,000. I didn't want any bidding war. I just wanted to go home, have a couple of beers and relax."
"If you're talking about contracts a year ago, then this all is crazy," says Claiborne, who this summer worked out the contracts that persuaded Kapstein clients Fred Lynn, Carlton Fisk and Rick Burleson to stay with the Red Sox. "But we're dealing in an entirely different market. In the perspective of the future salary structure, Campbell's contract isn't inflationary at all."
Claiborne points to players all around the big leagues who recently have signed multi-year contracts: Philadelphia's Garry Maddox, St. Louis' Al Hrabosky and Ted Simmons, Kansas City's John May-berry, whose $1 million deal was a harbinger for Campbell. But the new salary levels are most evident on Campbell's new team. In 1976, the Red Sox had the highest payroll in baseball history, with salaries averaging more than $85,000 per man. Next season the average will be more than $100,000. Second Baseman Denny Doyle, a refugee two years ago from the waiver wire, will get $100,000 in 1977. In August, Lynn signed a five-year, $1,615,000 contract, including a signing bonus of $875,000.
Claiborne now has 18 Boston players signed to multi-year contracts. "People have criticized us, but I think we saw what was coming ahead of some other teams," he says. "You may see three times as many players available in the draft next year, but the quality will be less. Each team now will try to sign up its good players for a long time."
Even the cautious Twins are doing that; last week they gave 20-year-old Catcher Butch Wynegar a two-year deal worth about $85,000. But Minnesota isn't seriously engaged in the free-agent lottery, and neither are several other teams with conservative owners, despite some face-saving statements that they are hoping to sign a new player or two. In fact, amid all the hue and cry about the horrors of the draft, only the World Champion Reds—who can most afford to stand pat—refused to participate in it. Ironically, some of the new system's most vociferous opponents, notably the Cardinals, are now among the most avid pursuers of free agents. Along with several other teams, the Cards fall in a particularly frustrating category of clubs that would like to sign one of the available stars but, because of lack of funds, less-than-choice locations or other factors, probably will be unable to do so.
The draft is already causing problems with stars who are still bound to their teams by old contracts. In Boston, Carl Yastrzemski and Luis Tiant are trying to renegotiate. San Diego's Cy Young Award winner Randy Jones says that if the Padres sign one or two of the high-priced free agents, they will have to pay him more. The average big-league salary in 1969 was less than $25,000. In 1976, it was around $50,000. In 1977? "I shudder to think," says Twins Vice-President Clark Griffith.
Fans will be the first to pay. Ticket prices in Boston were raised 50� last week. The Orioles had announced a similar increase a few days earlier. Cuts in farm and scouting systems and roster size will continue, and veterans earning more than $50,000 will see their careers dramatically shortened. "But there's a limit to how much you can cut," says Claiborne. In other words, there are franchises that may not be around in 1980.
"Four or five teams are spending themselves right out of baseball in a hurry," says Calvin Griffith, mentioning Atlanta and Cleveland for two. But the question remains: What happens in a place like Minnesota when the fans realize their team has no real hope of ever winning a pennant because it cannot afford to buy (or hold on to) the Campbells and Griches? Will they give up? "You hear a lot of baseball people say, 'Well, we'll be better with 16 teams,' and resign themselves to it," says Clark Griffith. "It's tough when you're not one of the 16. It's also tough when you're one of the 200 or 300 players who'll be out of work."
The attrition might not be that severe—or it may not happen at all. Exactly what effect the baseball lottery will have on the game probably will not be fully evident for about five years. But two things are already clearly discernible: that Players Association Director Marvin Miller was right when he said years ago that the reserve system existed "to protect the owners from themselves," and that Campbell, the first of the instant millionaires, will not be the last big winner in the sweepstakes.
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