According to Judge Pershing, the base ball player is not a laborer within the meaning of the statutes giving laboreers a preference over other creditors in the distribution of an insolvent estate. There will be no disposition to find fault with this decision. The salaried base ball player is altogether too much of a professional man to share in the protection which the law extends to the manual laborer and mechanic.
-The North American, January 17, 1884
I thought this was really interesting and somewhat relevant to discussion at hand.
Lucas, when discussing the reserve rule and the decision to ignore it, talked about it in moral terms. He was essentially talking about the rights of man, broadly defined. He was talking about the right of a free man to ingage in free commerce and to sell or buy whatever property they had or were offered.
Just law defends and encourages these rights. While I don't know all the particulars about the case that's being discussed above, it doesn't appear that the law as applied was defending the rights of baseball players or their property. However, this does seem to fit right in with a hundred years of American jurisprudence which also failed to do so.