Why players can't own a piece of the team

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Employee owenrship.gifI’ve always known that players can’t hold equity stakes in their teams due to the Basic Agreement (see paragraph 4(c) on p. 213 of this massive document), but I never knew why.

Today, however, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus explains. Once upon a time Rogers Hornsby got a cut of the Cardinals, was traded to the Giants, and quickly found his ownership stake to be a conflict of interest. And it got worst when he went to divest, as the Cardinals tried to lowball him, leading to everyone in the National League having to chip in to buy him off.  As a result of all of that, the rule was passed and has been incorporated into player contracts and/or the Basic Agreement ever since.

The only exception: players can take a stake in the team with special approval of the Commissioner.  Goldstein speculates whether or a team could give a chunk of the team to a player with language built in to deal with any Hornsby-esque conflicts of interest and have it approved by Selig. He dismisses it almost immediately, however, which is probably sensible given that it’s not likely to ever happen.

The only thing I’d add is the notion of maybe offering a player a chunk of a team — or at least the option to buy a chunk of the team — that doesn’t vest until retirement.  I kind of doubt that would ever happen, though, because it would require something akin to financial transparency for baseball teams and they really, really hate that.

Sandy Koufax to be honored with statue at Dodger Stadium

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Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax will be honored with a statue at Dodger Stadium, expected to be unveiled in 2020. Dodger Stadium will be undergoing major renovations, expected to cost around $100 million, after the season. Koufax’s statue will go in a new entertainment plaza beyond center field. The current statue of Jackie Robinson will be moved into the same area.

Koufax, 83, had a relatively brief career, pitching parts of 12 seasons in the majors, but they were incredible. He was a seven-time All-Star who won the National League Cy Young Award three times (1963, ’65-66) and the NL Most Valuable Player Award once (’63). He contributed greatly to the ’63 and ’65 championship teams and authored four no-hitters, including a perfect game in ’65.

Koufax was also influential in other ways. As Shaikin notes, Koufax refused to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series to observe Yom Kippur. It was an act that would attract national attention and turn Koufax into an American Jewish icon.

Ahead of the 1966 season, Koufax and Don Drysdale banded together to negotiate against the Dodgers, who were trying to pit the pitchers against each other. They sat out spring training, deciding to use their newfound free time to sign  on to the movie Warning Shot. Several weeks later, the Dodgers relented, agreeing to pay Koufax $125,000 and Drysdale $110,000, which was then a lot of money for a baseball player. It would be just a few years later that Curt Flood would challenge the reserve clause. Koufax, Drysdale, and Flood helped the MLB Players Association, founded in 1966, gain traction under the leadership of Marvin Miller.