There’s a sub-culture in media and among some fans that knowledge of baseball history is geeky or even abnormal.
Such an attitude was on display with reports of the Cubs’ Ryan Dempster being traded to the Atlanta Braves, then denying he’d be traded, the deal taken off the table, and Dempster drawing media fire for not jumping at the chance to pitch for a contender.
The last part is the most galling.
Dempster has a right, carried over through four decades of Collective Bargaining Agreements, to refuse a trade as a player with 10 years big league service, including five consecutively with his present team.
Dempster does not have depart when the Cubs so desire. That’s the sea change from the mid-20th Century backward, when any big leaguer had to pack his bags if so demanded, prior to the advent of the Players Association and abolishment of the unrestricted reserve clause.
There was no other business where if a team dictated a player had to move to another club, he had no alternative but to comply if he wanted to play baseball.
The Dempster-bashing sports-talk show hosts – and you who you are – can’t be traded from one station to another with no alternative to work in the business if they refuse.
As a result of the anti-history bent of so many, the experiences of the very man whose Hall of Fame induction was celebrated Sunday were largely forgotten in relation to Dempster.
Ron Santo was the first big leaguer to invoke his rights under the just-instituted 10-and-5 rule in the late fall of 1973.
Thus, 10-and-5 was quickly nicknamed the "Santo Clause."
Amid a thorough housecleaning of veterans mandated by Cubs owner Phil Wrigley after yet another pennant-race collapse, general manager John Holland had a Santo deal ready with the Los Angeles Angels for lefty Andy Hassler.
But the 10-and-5 concept was so new Holland never asked Santo if he’d approve when he first talked with the Angels. Santo refused, as was his right, not wanting to uproot his family 2,000 miles.
Holland had to start all over again, this time swapping Santo to the crosstown White Sox. Santo smiled when he got to stay home and was introduced on the South Side, but he later regretted the deal and retired after the 1974 season.
Going back further, Curt Flood’s refusal to consent to a trade from his 12-year home with the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1970 started the slippery slope to the abolition of the reserve clause and inauguration of free agency six years later.
Without the 10-and-5 right, his career was effectively over.
Reminders of history were necessary Wednesday.
Dempster showed his professionalism by pitching credibly in Pittsburgh while under the cloud of trades. You wish those who criticized him for just saying “no” were as classy.
This column solely represents the writer’s opinion. Reach him at DGemsNet@aol.com.