The rush for longer and fatter contracts by pivotal Cincinnati Reds has a familiar, Oaklandish ring. Perhaps the dynasties of the '70s, the A's and Dolphins, will be recalled as being at lest partially borken not by age or the opposition by everyone tripping over each other to grab the company's loot.
Joe Morgan opened negotiations by saying, "I don't want to hear anything about loyalty." That was directed at management's trading of Tony Perez, who had driven in 1,000 runs in 10 years but reached the expendable level in terms of age and salary.
What all the Reds covet is what Andy Messersmith got by being the first agent under the Seitz arbitration ruling against baseball's option clause. Specially, his contract with the Braves calls for:
$100,000 for 1976 upon signing a three-year contract and another $100,000 for '76 in "level, semimonthly payments during the playing season."
$100,000 in one lump sum to be paid between Jan. 1 and March 31, 1977. And another $100,000 in "level, semimonthly payments during the playing season."
$100,000 for the '78 season to be paid in one lump sum between Jan. 1and March 31, 1978. And another $100,000 in "level, semimonthly payments during the playing season."
"$250,000 as a bonus payable upon signing this Uniform Player's Contract and Special Covenants."
"$150,000 as a bonus to be deferred, accumulated and paid in accordance with paragraph 17." That is a 10-year series of payments referred to in the contract as "The Messersmith Reserve" and begins being dispensed the year after the pitcher retires.
Also "club acknowledges and agrees that the payments due . . . are payable in all events, except in the case of player's naked refusal to play." That means he is paid even if he cannot make the team, in fact even if he dies.