by Harold Friend
The year was 1967. The columnist was Leonard Koppett. The topic was trading a player for "a player or players to be named later."
In 1967, June 15 was the trading deadline. After that date, only waiver deals could be made. In a waiver trade, each team is given the chance, based on reverse order of won-lost record, to buy a player's contract. The major purpose of the procedure was to prevent wealthy teams vying for the pennant from raiding teams that were out of contention. If the second place Red Sox wanted Elston Howard from the ninth place Yankees, all the teams with worse records than the Red Sox would have the chance of obtaining Howard's services.
The Yankees Sent Elston Howard to the Red Sox on Waivers
On August 3, 1967, the Yankees sent Elston Howard to the Red Sox for two players to be named later. Leonard Koppett called trades for "a player or players to be named later" as "disgraceful" and "dishonest." He explained that they undermine the belief that baseball is structured in such a way as to prevent a player from playing against his future employer and knowing it..
Pedro Ramos Helped the Yankees Win the 1964 Pennant
Late in 1964, the Yankees obtained the services of Pedro Ramos, without whom the Yankees would not have won the pennant. In return for Ramos, the Yankees would send the Indians a player to be named later. The player turned out to be Ralph Terry, who, like Ramos, also helped the Yankees win the pennant.
What If Ralph Terry Knew?
Terry didn't know that he was the player who would be named later, but if he did know that he was going to be an Indian, would that have affected him when he faced the Indians? Koppett asks, "What if a player, knowing he'll be with Cleveland next year, has to play against them for the Yankees this year while Cleveland is fighting for a pennant? Will he do his best to damage his next employer? He should---but sooner or later someone might not."
Some light is shed on the problem by the Bo Belinsky situation. Belinsky found out that he was the player to be named later in a trade. Then commissioner Ford Frick nullified the trade because Belinsky spoke about it. End of trade.
The Current Situation
Today, the trading deadline is July 31. Two thirds of the season have been played and many teams are out of contention. In the era of free agency, team rosters have little stability. Teams in contention that are willing to spend money or give up promising minor leaguers pluck players they need from teams that are out of it, especially if the needed player will be eligible for free agency or arbitration after the season.
Leonard Koppett's concerns have become greatly magnified. The Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Mets, and Dodgers are among baseball's big spenders. Take a player on Kansas City or Pittsburgh or any other team that refuses to spend money and that will be out of the race by July 31. The better players on those teams read the newspapers and watch television. They are aware of the chances that they will be pitching for a particular contender after July 31. Will all of those players, as Koppett wrote, "...do his best to damage his next employer? He should---but sooner or later someone might not."
Everyone talks about the integrity of the game. Huge sums of money are involved. The potential for improprieties cannot be allowed to exist. Leonard Koppett addressed the issue almost forty years ago. It's really had great impact on those who rule the game.
Koppett, Leonard (1967). "Wheeling and dealing." The New York Times, August 4, 1967. p.S20.