Admittedly, I’ve spent the week in a blind rage thanks to the trade deadline in MLB. And that’s due to my former baseball flame, the Cubs, making a spectacle of themselves. But I’ve written that article, and may have to write it again later today should this be the day the Cubs ship Kris Bryant off for the three kids selling lemonade down the street from your house.
But it applies to all sports, and at the risk of being a soccer fan once again telling you everything that’s wrong with American sports (you probably have four or five of these in your life by now), the idea of a trade has always struck me as weird, illogical, and unfair.
We know why trades exist in our sports and not elsewhere (there are swap deals in other places, but the players themselves have to agree to them). Leagues here are top-down entities, not bottom-up as they are in most of the world. There, the teams formed the league. Here, the league formed the teams (expansion teams, franchises, etc.).
So basically, though we think of players by the team they’re on, what they really are is MLB players or NFL players that were once allocated to one team through the draft (mostly) and then are within the system. They’re all under that league’s envelope, and hence can be swapped around. Obviously, the monopoly nature of these leagues, or their clear elevation over any other league in the world, plays a role, too.
Sure, lots of you could be transferred in your job. Happens all the time. Except it has to do with your job, and you as an individual. And really, you could turn it down (most of the time? I’m really only learning how the adult world works. This is my first real job, so you’ll have to be patient). You don’t get transferred to Taos simply because your boss wanted a different quality control person in a completely different department.
So take last night. The Yankees wanted Joey Gallo, so four players in their system have to completely uproot their lives, possibly go to a place where they know no one, and basically start over their world outside of baseball, and even in it. Now these are minor leaguers, so they can sleep in their car anywhere and it’ll all look pretty much the same to them while MLB continues to fuck them over.. But you get it. With those on the top level, they just randomly find out they have to shift families — or live apart from families — in a new town because their team wanted someone else. How’s that fair, really?
Sure, players knew the drill when they came into professional sports. But there was also a time when they knew there was the reserve clause, and a team could keep you indefinitely. That changed with free agency. This should, too.
If the Yankees want Joey Gallo, they should just pay the Rangers for the right to have him, for whatever the Rangers deem is the right price, with the OK of Gallo. If that’s $30 million. Or $50 million, whatever. And then the Rangers have that extra money to go get the prospects they want from wherever they want, or maybe actual MLB players, god forbid.
Maybe a rule could, or would have to be instituted that all transfer fees have to go back into payroll, or at least a certain percentage of them do. Because we could see someone like Pirates owner Bob Nutting (or yes, the Cubs’ Tom Ricketts), seeing that selling off players leads directly to even more money they can just stuff in their pockets. But those claims of not being able to afford a contender would ring even more hollow than they do now.
This goes hand-in-hand with abolishing the draft in all sports, which should also happen, and should have happened decades ago. Everyone should get to decide where and for whom they want to work, and that’s at every level. Having to completely change your life simply because the team you used to play for added a new player is just as ridiculous as the draft or reserve clause. It’s time we recognize it.