Position Players by WAR: Free Agency

Baseball Prehistory | Deadball Era | Liveball Era | Post-War
Expansion | Free Agency | Modern Era

The Expansion Era saw the Major Leagues spread west and go from 16 teams to 24 26 by 1977:

The pitching mound had been lowered, the designated hitter added, and baseball was looking like the modern game save for one thing: Free Agency. In the 19th century, players started getting paid more than the average worker. In order to control salaries, baseball created the Reserve Clause in 1879 which said that even if a player’s contract expired, the team that contract was with still retained rights to their services. Players were given one-year contracts, and if they refused to sign, they couldn’t sign with another team.

The Federal League was formed in 1914 to compete with the Major Leagues, but only lasted two seasons. After 1915, the Major Leagues bought out most of the owners of the Federal Leagues, giving them ownership in Major League teams, or other considerations. The owner of one of those teams, the Baltimore Terrapins, refused to be bought out and brought suit against the National League under the Sherman Anti-trust Act. That came to a head in 1922 in Federal Baseball Club vs. National League which created the MLB Anti-Trust exemption. Apparently because baseball was an amusement, it didn’t fall under the same rules for interstate commerce.

That all changed in 1975 when an arbitrator struck down the reserve clause and granted Free Agency to two pitchers: Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally. From 1976, Free Agency was born, and players were no longer bound by the Reserve Clause.

A quick synopsis: in 1969, Curt Flood fought against being traded. He gave up his career in baseball. He believed that the Reserve Clause was cause for collective bargaining, and the first collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association was reached by Marvin Miller in 1970. That started the ball rolling for Free Agency to be granted by the arbitrator in 1975.

Here are the players who came out of that era:

And the second half:

Who jumps out to you?

Player list (career WAR in parentheses):

Rickey Henderson (114.1) Mike Schmidt (110.5)
Cal Ripken (99.7) Wade Boggs (94.8)
George Brett (91.6) Eddie Murray (78.8)
Rafael Palmeiro (75.5) Paul Molitor (75.2)
Carlton Fisk (74.4) Lou Whitaker (74.3)
Bobby Grich (74.1) Robin Yount (74.1)
Gary Carter (72.5) Dwight Evans (71.4)
Tim Raines (71) Mark McGwire (70.6)
Ozzie Smith (70.3) Barry Larkin (69.8)
Alan Trammell (69.5) Tony Gwynn (67.9)
Willie Randolph (67.9) Darrell Evans (67.8)
Dave Winfield (67.7) Buddy Bell (66.6)
Ryne Sandberg (62.6) Andre Dawson (62.3)
Keith Hernandez (61.8) Fred McGriff (61.3)
Ron Cey (59.4) Chet Lemon (56.9)
Jim Rice (56.1) Jose Cruz (55.2)
Will Clark (54.4) Brian Downing (54.1)
Jack Clark (53.9) Fred Lynn (53.8)
Tony Phillips (51.5) Toby Harrah (50.9)
George Foster (50.8) Ken Singleton (50.2)
Kirby Puckett (49.4) Julio Franco (48.6)
Lance Parrish (48) Tony Fernandez (47.7)
Matt Williams (47.4) Dale Murphy (47.3)
Brett Butler (46.3) Davey Lopes (46.1)
Devon White (46) Jose Canseco (45.9)
Don Mattingly (45.8) Dave Parker (45.7)
Harold Baines (45.3) Dave Concepcion (44.8)
Doug DeCinces (44.3) Gary Gaetti (44.3)
Albert Belle (44.2) Paul O’Neill (43.8)
Willie Wilson (43.5) Darrell Porter (43.4)
Darryl Strawberry (43.2) Andy Van Slyke (43.1)
Jesse Barfield (42.6) Dusty Baker (42.6)
Steve Garvey (42.5) Kent Hrbek (42)
Chili Davis (41.7) Lenny Dykstra (41.4)
Jim Sundberg (41.4) Tim Wallach (40.6)
Wally Joyner (40.4) Jay Bell (40.3)
Kirk Gibson (39.5) Carney Lansford (39.1)
Cecil Cooper (38.6) Greg Luzinski (38.1)
Bill Madlock (38.1) Pedro Guerrero (37.9)
Bob Boone (37.1) Lonnie Smith (37)
Eric Davis (36.8) Ken Griffey (36.8)
Bob Watson (36.6) Don Money (36.5)
Frank White (36.2) Dwayne Murphy (35.7)
Bobby Bonilla (35.6) Andres Galarraga (35.4)
Ron Gant (35.3) Don Baylor (34.9)
Gary Matthews (34.6) Mike Hargrove (34.5)
Travis Fryman (33.7) Hal McRae (33.6)


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13 years ago

No one jumps out at me, because the graphs are too small to read, and don’t expand to a visible size once you click on them.

Carson Cistullimember
13 years ago
Reply to  SC2GG

I believe this can be addressed by right-clicking on the image and then opening it in a new tab or window.

13 years ago
Reply to  SC2GG

Or for Mac users, just drag in onto your desktop. Then you can zoom.

ps – Joshua: the Boston dot is the wrong color. 😉

13 years ago
Reply to  ofMontreal

ps ps – Unfortunately Andre Dawson is also in the HOF from this era.