Vetoed/Completed trade: October 1969, Cardinals send Curt Flood, Byron Browne, Joe Hoerner and Tim McCarver to Phillies for Dick Allen, Jerry Johnson and Cookie Rojas.
Addition to vetoed/completed trade: April 1970, Cardinals send Willie Montanez and Jim Browning to Phillies for unknown compensation due to Flood’s refusal to report to Philadelphia.
Completed trade: Phillies send Flood and player to be named later (Jeff Terpko) to Senators for Greg Goossen, Gene Martin and Jeff Terpko
Flood was one of the 75 best center fielders of all-time. For nine straight seasons — from 1961 to 1969 — he was worth at least three wins. From 1963 to 1969, he was a Gold Glove winner, and was one of the better players on a Cardinals team that won two World Series and went to seven games in a third. But that’s obviously not what Flood is most remembered for. He’s most known for his unsuccessful, but trailblazing challenge of Major League Baseball’s reserve clause.
Following the ’69 season, St. Louis decided they would rather have Dick Allen than Flood. This was a defensible position from a baseball perspective certainly, as Allen was four years younger than Flood and was a more accomplished player. But it was not acceptable from Flood’s perspective. Not only did the Phillies have a horrible team — they finished 63-99 in 1969 and wouldn’t post a winning record again until 1975 — but they were also home to fans whom Flood considered racist. Also playing a factor may have been the turf at Connie Mack Stadium, which could have destroyed Flood’s knees.
In a letter to then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn, Flood wrote that he did not think he was a “piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes.” He asked Kuhn to make it known to the other teams in baseball that he was available to play for them, as he would not play for Philadelphia. Kuhn refused. Flood sued — not just MLB but also Kuhn himself — for $1 million. The case would reach the Supreme Court, where Flood lost by a 5-3 vote. The case is actually fairly important to the legal community, though certainly it was more important baseball. Before the case even reached the Supreme Court, Flood won a victory of sorts when the owners and commissioner’s office agreed to the Curt Flood Rule or 10/5 rule in 1970, which gave players with 10 years in the game and five years with the same team the right to veto a trade.
When the Supreme Court ruled in 1972, their decision was tenuous enough that it paved the way for the arbitration ruling by Peter Seitz three years later, and with it, the dawn of free agency. But not only do you likely know most of that, but also it was Flood’s wish that he be remembered for more than just his battle against the reserve clause, so let’s try to evaluate the trade from a baseball standpoint as well.
In a sad twist, the trade actually worked out better for the Phillies after Flood refused to report. The three players St. Louis originally agreed to send to Philadelphia with Flood — Browne, Hoerner and McCarver — were fairly underwhelming. McCarver’s best days were behind him. In his time in Philly, he was worth 4.9 WAR in three seasons. That’s not awful, obviously, but two seasons before St. Louis traded him he posted a 6.6 WAR season and finished second to Orlando Cepeda in the National League Most Valuable Player Award voting. We’ve been hearing about it ever since. But it was little consolation to Philadelphia, which shipped him to the Expos halfway through the 1972 season. The player they received in return — John Bateman — posted -0.5 WAR in half a season and then never played again in the majors. Browne also played for Philly from 1970 to 1972, as an outfielder. He logged 183 games and 0.4 WAR before riding off into the sunset. Like McCarver and Browne, Hoerner only lasted with the Phillies until ’72, when he was traded for two underwhelming pitchers. Hoerner was a reliable reliever for the Phillies, and he was particularly good in ’71 when he posted a 1.96 ERA, 83 FIP- and nine saves in 49 games. But, overall, he chipped in just 1.5 WAR in his two-plus seasons with in Philadelphia.
When Flood refused to report, the Cardinals agreed to send Montanez — and then later Browning — to the Phillies as compensation. Browning never suited up for Philadelphia, but Montanez had a nice career in Philly. In 651 games for the Phillies, Montanez accrued 7.5 WAR. It’s not a great total, obviously. In fact, he was a total zero in 1973 when he posted a 0.0 WAR in 146 games. That seems like a tough thing to do. He also switched from center fielder to first base at the age of 25, which also seems like a rare occurrence. But more importantly to Philadelphia, the team was able to trade him in 1975 for center fielder Garry Maddox, who not only went on to have an awesome career in Philly but also had an awesome nickname: the secretary of defense.
In his 11-plus seasons in Philadelphia, he was worth 28.3 WAR, 23.1 of which came from when he was acquired in ’75 through 1979. In each of those five seasons, he was worth at least 3.6 WAR and topped out at 6.8 WAR as a 26-year-old in ’76. In that season, he was the second-best player on a team that ended Philly’s 25-year playoff drought. He helped the Phillies reach the playoffs five more times in the next seven years. He won seven Gold Gloves in Philadelphia, and he made his only postseason homer count — his blast in the eighth inning off of Scott McGregor in Game 1 of the 1983 World Series broke a 1-1 tie that Philadelphia would preserve for their only win. Maddox was everything they hoped Flood would have been — he just arrived five years later. That they used one of the players acquired because of Flood’s refusal to report wrapped upthe trade in a nice little bow.
The subsequent Flood trade to Washington was a total wash: Neither the Senators nor the Phillies received value from it (in fact, Terpko was dealt to the Phillies, but when the Phillies needed to send a player to be named later to complete the deal, they simply returned Terpko). And for a couple of years, it would seem as though the Phillies received very little from it, as well. But then Maddox came on board and changed that.
St. Louis, wasn’t as fortunate. Jerry Johnson didn’t last two months with the Cardinals before he was dealt for pitcher Frank Linzy. Linzy was shipped off after the ’71 season for Rich Stonum, who never reached the majors. Johnson and Linzy compiled a lowly 0.7 WAR for St. Louis. Rojas only lasted a month longer than Johnson and was shipped off for Fred Rico, who also never played for the Cardinals. But while Johnson never amounted to much either before or after his time in St. Louis, Rojas posted seasons of 3.7, 2.0 and 2.0 WAR from 1971 to 1973, and has had a long career in the game after his playing days ended.
Finally, there’s Allen. One of the game’s best players who is not enshrined in the Hall of Fame, Allen was one of the titans of the ‘60’s and early ‘70’s. If you’re as fond of playing arbitrary-endpoint games as I am, you might know that from 1964 to 1974, only six players earned more WAR than the 65.1 mark Allen posted. All of them are in the Hall: Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson, Carl Yastrzemski, Brooks Robinson, Ron Santo and Gaylord Perry. Even if you want to be less arbitrary and extend the parameters from 1960 to 1980, Allen’s WAR still makes him one of the best 30 players in baseball over that time. But let’s go back to ’64-’74, since that was when Allen was most effective. In each year during that span, he was worth at least 3.3 WAR, but even that figure is misleading. His average season was 5.4 WAR, and in four of the 11 seasons he was worth at least 7.2 WAR. Unfortunately for St. Louis, his year with the Cardinals was one of his worst.
Allen did blast 34 homers in 1970 with St. Louis, which was at that point his second-best mark, but his defense was so porous that he only tallied 3.5 WAR. The Cardinals must not have impressed, because after the season, they shipped him to the Dodgers for Ted Sizemore and Bob Stinson. Stinson was a dud. He accrued 0.0 WAR and was shipped off for Marty Martinez, who was then traded for Brant Alyea, who must have been terrible, because the Cardinals eventually gave him back to the Oakland A’s for nothing. Sizemore had a decent showing with St. Louis — he accrued 10.9 WAR over five seasons for them, primarily at second base. Just before the 1976 season, Sizemore was dealt for Willie Crawford, who kicked in 2.5 WAR and then was part of a trade that landed Mike Caldwell, John D’Acquisto and Dave Rader.
Caldwell never played for St. Louis — he was traded just before the start of the 1977 season for Pat Darcy, who also never suited up for St. Louis. D’Acquisto got into three games for the Cards before he was one of two players traded for Butch Metzger. Metzger tossed 92.2 innings and chipped in 0.2 WAR in 1977 for St. Louis, and then the Mets picked him up off waivers. Rader chipped in 0.2 WAR and then was part of a deal that landed St. Louis Jerry Morales — who managed to accrue a negative career WAR despite playing in 15 different seasons — and Steve Swisher. Swisher was better than Morales, but not by much — certainly his son Nick Swisher has become much better player. In three years with St. Louis, Swisher accrued just 0.1 WAR. Swisher was eventually included in the 10-player deal that brought Rollie Fingers and Gene Tenace to St. Louis, but at this point we are so far removed from the original Flood-Allen trade that it would be foolhardy to assign any credit to it. Iinterestingly enough, Fingers was Cardinals property for only four days, before he was traded to Milwaukee in a seven-player trade.)
As for the original Flood-Allen deal, it looked like this trade might not work out for anyone. Allen didn’t deliver in St. Louis, and Flood wouldn’t play for Philadelphia. But the addition of Montanez, who then begat Maddox, made it work out great for the Phillies. And of course, in the end, the trade and its ensuing legal aftermath also immensely helped not just future major leaguers, who were able to benefit not just from the 10/5 rule, but also players in all pro sports when baseball led the way in giving free agency rights for its players. This deal set those wheels irrevocably in motion. But the trade did not work out well for the Cardinals, the Senators or for Flood, who sat out his entire age-32 season and then lasted just 13 games in Washington before deciding to hang up his spikes at 33. Flood left a lasting legacy on the game, but one wonders how his career would have turned out if the Cardinals had decided to just keep him.
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