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The Introduction of the Reserve Clause in Major League Baseball: Evidence of its Impact on Select Player Salaries During the 1880s

  • Jennifer K. Ashcraft


    (Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway Company)

  • Craig A. Depken, II


    (Department of Economics, University of Texas at Arlington)

This paper investigates the introduction of the reserve clause in Major League Baseball during the 1880s. Taking advantage of a unique data set describing the salaries for twenty nine high-quality players throughout the decade of the 1880s, we investigate the impact of the reserve clause as it evolved from a "gentleman's agreement" to a formal contract stipulation. We test three specific hypotheses concerning the reserve clause: its effect on average salaries, on the remuneration to marginal product, and the premium paid to a player for changing teams. The evidence suggests that introducing the reserve clause reduced average salaries and the premium for changing teams; detectable monopsony power was transferred to team owners almost immediately. However, there was no statistically significant impact of the reserve clause on how much players were paid for their marginal product. The empirical results indicate that reserve clause shifted considerable monopsony power to team owners immediately after it was instituted.

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Paper provided by International Association of Sports Economists & North American Association of Sports Economists in its series Working Papers with number 0710.

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Length: 38 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:spe:wpaper:0710
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  1. Simon Rottenberg, 1956. "The Baseball Players' Labor Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 242.
  2. Eckard, E Woodrow, 2001. "Free Agency, Competitive Balance, and Diminishing Returns to Pennant Contention," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 39(3), pages 430-43, July.
  3. Craig A. Depken II, 1996. "Free-Agency and the Competitiveness of Major-League Baseball," Industrial Organization 9610001, EconWPA, revised 31 Oct 1996.
  4. Joel G. Maxcy, 2002. "Rethinking Restrictions On Player Mobility In Major League Baseball," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 20(2), pages 145-159, 04.
  5. Krautmann, Anthony C, 1999. "What's Wrong with Scully-Estimates of a Player's Marginal Revenue Product," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 37(2), pages 369-81, April.
  6. Paul M. Sommers & Noel Quinton, 1982. "Pay and Performance in Major League Baseball: The Case of the First Family of Free Agents," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 17(3), pages 426-436.
  7. Craig A. Depken, II, 2002. "Free Agency and the Concentration of Player Talent in Major League Baseball," Journal of Sports Economics, , vol. 3(4), pages 335-353, November.
  8. Donald Cymrot & James Dunlevy & William Even, 2001. "'Who's on first': an empirical test of the Coase Theorem in baseball," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 33(5), pages 593-603.
  9. Scully, Gerald W, 1974. "Pay and Performance in Major League Baseball," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(6), pages 915-30, December.
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