Lackey's and Bay's markets emerge 

November, 16, 2009

Last week the Hall of Fame announced the entries on its nonplayer ballot, which includes owners, umpires, executives, managers and longtime union head Marvin Miller. Miller's candidacy is the most controversial; many people like to argue that Miller somehow damaged the game by breaking ownership's stranglehold on player salaries and movement.

Yes, obtaining and enforcing players' rights has transferred enormous amounts of wealth from ownership to the players who actually produced the value that led to the wealth, but increased player movement is clearly better for competitive balance than a system in which teams can retain their star players forever without paying market salaries. Furthermore, increasing player compensation has made baseball a more lucrative career option -- more specifically, the expected value of entering pro ball has increased, even though the odds of success remain small for any individual prospect (non-Matt Wieters division). That has kept the pool of player talent strong, including college players who previously might have seen baseball as too high-risk/low-reward compared with a career outside of sports.

Of course, MLB is trying its best to hang itself through hard-slotting in the draft, all in the name of helping small-market teams, even though a high-end draft budget is only $8-10 million, or less than 10 percent of a low-end annual baseball operations budget. And hard-slotting wouldn't have kept the Pirates from taking Danny Moskos over Jason Heyward.

Keith Law

ESPN Senior Writer