A brave new world

Since free agency began in 1976, much has been made of small-market teams’ inability to compete with teams from large markets. In 1977, for example, perhaps the earliest case of a high profile free agent came along in Reggie Jackson. The Yankees were far from the only team able to afford him, but nonetheless Jackson signed what was at the time one of the largest contracts in the game: almost $3 million over five years. Backed by the new owner George Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ payroll exploded to over $60 million by 1997, and to $209 million by 2005.