While Alex Rodriquez may be off the front pages for the moment, this hiatus will give him the oppor­tu­nity to study up on the his­tory of labor rela­tions in the national pas­time. He has railed against the labor arbi­tra­tion process and the man who ran the process in his case, dis­tin­guished labor arbi­trator Fed­eric Horowitz. A-​​Rod is under­stand­ably upset about the prospect of losing the oppor­tu­nity to earn $25 mil­lion for playing this coming season.

But how did A-​​Rod arrive in the posi­tion to be able to earn those mega-​​dollars? He cer­tainly was a bril­liant talent long before he may (or may not) have indulged in using performance-​​enhancing drugs. He was always much better than the average ballplayer of the 1950s or 1960s who earned $10–15,000 a year for a career that lasted only a few years at the Major League level. That was the state of base­ball work life before the advent of the Major League Base­ball Players Asso­ci­a­tion and the arrival of player free agency.

How did this rev­o­lu­tion occur? Now ballplayers earn a min­imum of $490,000 a season and free agents can earn as much as A-​​Rod or even more. (The Dodgers just signed a seven-​​year con­tract with pitcher Clayton Ker­shaw for more than $30 mil­lion a year.) Did A-Rod’s riches come through the fed­eral court — the place where he wants his com­plaint to be heard by a “fair” judge? Fed­eral courts were his­tor­i­cally hos­tile to labor unions in gen­eral and to base­ball players in par­tic­ular. In 1922, the United States Supreme Court in a unan­i­mous opinion by Jus­tice Holmes ruled that base­ball was a state and local matter that did not affect inter­state com­merce. There­fore, baseball’s per­ni­cious per­sonnel system did not have to comply with the antitrust laws. Although the deci­sion was pre­pos­terous — even in 1922 the inter­state char­acter of the game was evi­dent — it remained the law for almost 80 years until Con­gress clar­i­fied the reach of the antitrust laws.

Read the article at Huffington Post →