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Why Marvin Miller should be in the Hall of Fame, exhibit 2,305

Jul 13, 2012, 2:32 PM EDT

Marvin Miller

Arguably the best guy at the most important position in the richest, most successful sports league in America just signed a new deal today:

Drew Brees’s deal is done … The deal includes $40 million in the first year and a guaranteed $60 million in the first three years of the contract. That’s the biggest guarantee for any contract in NFL history. After protracted negotiations, Brees has done very well for himself.

From baseball, a couple months ago:

The Diamondbacks and catcher Miguel Montero have agreed to a five-year, $60 million contract extension … The new deal falls short of Yadier Molina‘s recent five-year, $75 million extension with the Cardinals, but it’s still a nice chunk of change for someone who is just realizing his potential.

Tell me who is more valuable to their employer: Brees or Montero. Now tell me why the guy who is clearly more valuable gets what a decent but not great guy gets in the other sport. Then go bow before a picture of Marvin Miller. Then sing a chorus of “Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to play football.”

And if your counter is “it’s more money than Brees could ever spend, baseball players are just greedy.”  Ask yourself who benefits from the labors of these gentlemen. The answer: billionaire businessmen. That’s who Miller and those who have followed him are taking money from.  In light of that, I won’t lose a wink of sleep thinking about Miguel Montero’s paycheck. And why I will feel a little bad for Drew Brees, even though he just set himself and his family up for life.

  1. CJ - Jul 13, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    Craig, maybe I’m confused, but how does a 5 year $100 M contract with 60 guaranteed in the first 3 years, compare to a straight 5 year 60 million dollar deal???

    Brees’ deal is nearly twice the size of Montero’s over the same number of years. And while Montero’s just coming into his prime, Brees is on the way out of his. Even so Brees is unquestionably more valuable, which is why he’s being paid nearly twice as much.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jul 13, 2012 at 2:46 PM

      Because each contract has $60 million guaranteed. The Saints are under no obligation to pay Brees a dime over $60 million. When one has no obligation to do anything, one cannot call it a contract. The $100 million is a potential obligation, not a real one.

      • CJ - Jul 13, 2012 at 2:52 PM

        Even so, then it’s a 3 year 60 M deal, which is still better than a 5 year 60 M deal. And there are increasing guarantees beyond those 3 years based on playing time and other stuff. Apples and oranges.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 13, 2012 at 3:03 PM

        I think Craig’s point, worded oddly, is that the best player in the NFL got the same guaranteed money as a good player in MLB.

        If we’re going best player to best player, none of the 4 major US sports touch MLB contracts for AAV or total dollars owed. And that is all due to Marvin Miller

        (also isn’t Gene Upshaw, ex head of the NFLPA in their HoF?)

      • natstowngreg - Jul 13, 2012 at 3:34 PM

        Gene Upshaw is in the Pro Football HOF, but it’s not for being head of the players’ union. It’s for being a great offensive lineman.

      • CJ - Jul 13, 2012 at 3:38 PM

        Fair, but 16 games into Montero’s first year of that deal, he didn’t have 2/3 of his $60 million already in the bank. 60 M over 5 isn’t equal to 60 M over 3, or even 40 M over 6 months.

        There is something to be said about 100% of contracts being fully guaranteed in MLB, but using Brees deal to point that out (especially using Montero as a comparison), just doesn’t seem to make any sense.

        Just the differences in the two sports themselves (roster sizes, greater risk for injury) make it impossible for NFL to fully guarantee contracts. It’ll never happen. Not to take away from what Miller did, it’s just a silly comparison.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 13, 2012 at 3:41 PM

        Just the differences in the two sports themselves (roster sizes, greater risk for injury) make it impossible for NFL to fully guarantee contracts. It’ll never happen. Not to take away from what Miller did, it’s just a silly comparison.

        Guaranteed contracts, or the lack thereof, has nothing to do with roster size or injury. Rosters have only recently gone up, but contracts kept increasing. Injuries have always been a part of the game, but guaranteed money is increasing.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 13, 2012 at 2:49 PM

      Because in the NFL, guaranteed money is all that matters. The Saints can cut Brees after 3 years and they owe him $0.

      • ck101 - Jul 13, 2012 at 3:33 PM

        Gene Upshaw is in the football HOF, but that is for his 15 years as a player and is entirely deserved – he’s considered one of the best offensive guards of all time.

        I totally understand Craig’s point, and have over the years come to appreciate what Marvin Miller did more and more, but I do sometimes think that people who complain about NFL contracts not being guaranteed overlook the fact that, were they guaranteed, the contracts would not be nearly as large as their stated values are now, and that in the end players would likely end up earning similar amounts to what they do now. It would be economic insanity to guarantee multi-year contracts for football players for tens of millions of dollars, given the inevitability of injuries and the likelihood that, if the money was guaranteed, players would be less likely to pay the huge mental and physical price football success requires. I don’t mean to imply that football players don’t earn every cent they get, but the refrain you sometimes hear that football contracts should be guaranteed just as they are in other sports can seem too simplistic.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 13, 2012 at 3:45 PM

        the contracts would not be nearly as large as their stated values are now,

        This is a bit of a chicken or the egg comment though, isn’t it? The reason players push for high guaranteed money is precisely because their contracts aren’t guaranteed. If in the next CBA, the NFLPA somehow drugged all the owners and got them to agree to a fully guaranteed contract, the players would push for a higher AAV instead of up front money.

    • dadawg77 - Jul 13, 2012 at 2:59 PM

      If you don’t like the comparison then look at the deal Albert got. Craig’s point remains, MLB players are much better off then any other athlete because of Miller.

      • CJ - Jul 13, 2012 at 3:02 PM

        Albert could be the Drew Brees of baseball. THAT’s a valid comparison. To compare Brees and Montero’s deals are silly any way you cut it. Worst case Brees makes the same money in 60% the time, but even that isn’t the be all end all the way the guarantees are structured. My point was it’s a silly comparison to make.

      • ezthinking - Jul 13, 2012 at 4:00 PM

        CJ, just say you don’t get it and leave it at that.

  2. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 13, 2012 at 2:45 PM

    Also don’t forget, Reggie White had to sue the NFL in ’93 to reestablish the NFLPA and let them negotiate a CBA. Marvin Miller was instrumental in helping the MLBPA push for a CBA back in 1968(!).

  3. kopy - Jul 13, 2012 at 2:51 PM

    “MLB pays its players too much, and that’s why the sport is dying.”
    -NFL Writer

  4. paperlions - Jul 13, 2012 at 2:56 PM

    Honest question: was Marvin Miller just lucky to be hired when he was by the MLBPA? More specifically, did Miller make arguments that no other labor lawyers could have or would have successfully made or did he just do what most other good labor lawyers would have done with that opportunity?

    If he just did what 100s of other guys in shoes could have/would have done…I don’t see a HOF case. If he was a true trail blazer and a singular labor lawyer that did for MLB players what no other lawyer could have done, then I see a great case. Right now, I just don’t know what I’m looking at.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jul 13, 2012 at 2:59 PM

      Even if anyone could do it, no one did. He did. That is the definition of a trailblazer. Anyone could have taken a boat across the ocean to America too. One guy did.

      More broadly, why, 40 years after he got churning, has no one done as well as he did in the other sports?

      • paperlions - Jul 13, 2012 at 3:07 PM

        The second point is a good one. I have seen a bunch of “Marvin should be in the HOF” articles, but they are usually superficial and don’t delineate what he did…relying only on the outcome, for which it is not clear how much credit he should be given (not unlike credit bestowed on managers of talented teams).

        Too many owners and commissioners are in the HOF already….guys that were not special as owners/commissioners…they were just the guys that ran things for a while, and usually, not particularly well. I just want to understand what about Miller’s actions deserve such a recognition before deciding what I think. I guess his case has just never been laid out in a digestible format that isolates his contribution to the current labor situation that MLB players enjoy from those of everyone else that was involved. I was very young at the time, so I don’t have a feel for how much (if any) he was sticking his neck out for transformative ideas.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 13, 2012 at 3:10 PM

      Couldn’t you use the same argument for everything in existence? Would another group of scientists been able to harness the atom and worked on the Manhattan Project independently? Would a different genius have figured out the iPod/Windows?

      • paperlions - Jul 13, 2012 at 3:19 PM

        No, you wouldn’t. There was only one opening and one time to do what Miller did….any lawyer couldn’t just jump in and do it. Any explorer could have got some funding, jumped in a ship and crossed the Atlantic….any tech genius could have invented the ipod, any physicist could have determined the relationship between energy and matter…in these cases there were competing groups/individuals that were trying to be the first to do something. In Miller’s case, he was the only one with the opportunity.

        I also don’t think you can give him full (or even most of the) credit for contracts like those mentioned above. Donald Fehr probably deserves at least as much credit as Miller does for that, doesn’t he?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 13, 2012 at 3:48 PM

        I’m seriously confused, weren’t you just arguing that if anyone was in his situation, they’d do the same so why is Miller being celebrated, only to turn around and argue that there was only one time and one person, Miller, who did what he did?

      • paperlions - Jul 13, 2012 at 4:36 PM

        There was one opportunity only, and Miller was given that opportunity. It is not clear what anyone else would have done with that opportunity. Miller didn’t create the opportunity, he may have just been in the right time and place. Compared to the other hypothetical examples where any of the individuals in a particular profession had the same opportunity.

    • Roger Moore - Jul 13, 2012 at 4:43 PM

      Bear in mind that Miller was much more than a labor lawyer. He was a union organizer. The big thing he did was to take a very weak union and convert it into a very strong one. Unions like MLBPA (other sports unions and other groups like SAG and AFTRA are similar) have always had a problem that the elite players don’t see a strong reason to cooperate with the fringe players. Their biggest interests are different, and that gives the owners a wedge to divide the union by playing the different parts against each other.

      Miller built the MLBPA from a more-or-less hopeless group into the most powerful union in sports, and possibly the most powerful union in any industry in the USA, by carefully working through their differences. He adopted a deliberate policy of always asking for some of each part of the union’s biggest demands and never accepting give-aways that would let the owners play different parts of the union against each other. That doesn’t just happen. It required understanding, planning, and a huge amount of work. As other posters have pointed out, there’s a reason the MLBPA is so much more effective than the unions in any other sport.

      • paperlions - Jul 13, 2012 at 4:47 PM

        Excellent points. Thanks.

    • cliffy1313 - Jul 14, 2012 at 1:14 AM

      Hi guys, new to posting here but have been reading for a while (pie, of course :D),
      but Mr. Miller was not an attorney.
      At least that’s what he said when I heard him speak at the SABR convention in Cincinnati.

      Cheers!

  5. jlovenotjlo - Jul 13, 2012 at 3:19 PM

    AND no permanent brain damage!

  6. Kevin S. - Jul 13, 2012 at 3:25 PM

    One thing that has to be noted when comparing NFL to MLB guys is that NFL rosters are twice the size. While MLB does have to fund a minor-league infrastructure, that’s peanuts when compared to majpr-league salaries. I think the NFL salary cap this year is something like $120 million. I’m pretty sure MLB teams aren’t spending all that close to $120 million per team. If the NBA had comparable revenues to MLB and NFL, the top NBA players would be making more than A-Rod, and that’s with maximum salary constraints restraining them. You have to consider how many mouths there are trying to get a bite of the pie. We slam NFL apologists all the time for making apples-to-oranges comparisons with MLB. Let’s not stoop to their level.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 13, 2012 at 3:50 PM

      You can’t really compare NFL salary caps to MLB’s salary structure though, as they are engineered on two completely different beasts. The NFL sells a collective TV package that encompasses all teams, which is why the bidding is so high. Almost everything the NFL sells is split amongst the teams (there is some local revenue, but it’s not the true money maker).

      Whereas in MLB, teams can sell their rights to individual RSN’s. Everything they sell at the ballpark is the team’s revenue. I’m sure many owners, specifically the Bob Kraft’s and the Jerry Jones’s of the world would love to split off their own RSN as they are the big bread winners in the NFL, but no way the owners would approve it.

      • thebaseballidiot - Jul 13, 2012 at 5:51 PM

        When are you going to stop being a shill for everything liberal and have an acutal original thought of your own?

      • Kevin S. - Jul 13, 2012 at 6:10 PM

        Yes, I understand that. My point was that you have to find a way to control for *all* the differences before making comparisons between the two. Comparing Drew Brees’ salary to Miguel Montero’s directly, when MLB and NFL teams generate revenue differently and have to split the revenue given to the players up differently is a little disingenuous. If I’m not mistaken, NFL players collectively are guaranteed a much bigger cut of revenues than MLB players typically get. That’s probably closer to a fair comparison, although it’s only looking at collective player welfare and not individual player welfare, which is increased for MLB players by guaranteed contracts.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 13, 2012 at 7:29 PM

        When are you going to stop being a shill for everything liberal and have an acutal original thought of your own?

        Probably the first time I’ve ever been accused of being a shill for someone and not having an original thought. Pray tell, what in the last few dozen/hundred comments have I been shilling for? Whose ideas am I copying?

    • largebill - Jul 14, 2012 at 10:08 AM

      “Kevin S. – Jul 13, 2012 at 3:25 PM

      One thing that has to be noted when comparing NFL to MLB guys is that NFL rosters are twice the size. While MLB does have to fund a minor-league infrastructure, that’s peanuts when compared to majpr-league salaries. I think the NFL salary cap this year is something like $120 million. I’m pretty sure MLB teams aren’t spending all that close to $120 million per team.”

      When you include minor league salaries and bonuses, MLB teams are spending well over $120 million per team.

      • Kevin S. - Jul 14, 2012 at 12:37 PM

        Hmm, maybe I was wrong about not spending close to $120 million, but it seems unlikely that they’re spending well over $120 million. I’ve got $100.3 million as the average Opening Day payroll this year, via Cot’s. That seems to include everybody whose getting paid a major-league salary, regardless of whether or not they’re on the forty. From Baseball America’s Draft Tracker, it seems teams spent an average of $6.1 million on draft bonuses this year. This is the last gasp of big IFA signings, but going forward they’re going to be limited to about $3 million a team. That’s $110 million. Minor league players make peanuts – there’s no way teams spend $10 million a year on minor-league salary.

        All of this is somewhat besides the point, but you got me thinking about it.

  7. nobody78 - Jul 13, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    Really? Miguel Montero hitting it as big as Drew Brees is such a wonderful achievement that we should celebrate it by including the person who made it possible in the Hall of Fame?

    I am fine with including Miller and would put him in if it were up to me. But Miguel Montero’s obscenely large salary does not particularly tell in his favor, whether it comes at the expense of even richer people or not.

    • nobody78 - Jul 13, 2012 at 5:18 PM

      Ha, not very popular, huh. Oh well.

      Miguel Montero will make more money next year than I will in my entire career (as a teacher). That’s fine, really – I believe in capitalism and I know that it means that you’ll get some very, very wealthy people. I also know that there is no way that Montero having a reasonable salary would benefit anyone but owners who would pocket more money for themselves.

      Given some of the guys who are in there are executive (Bowie Kuhn, Bill Veeck), it’s hard to make a case for keeping Miller out, and the decision gives off an odor of bad faith. And if you want to say that the reserve clause actually did mean that some players were treated unfairly – that they were never given the opportunity to make even a healthy salary playing baseball, or enough to be able to live securely after they finished playing, I’m all ears.

      But if you want to hold up a $60 million contract as a reason for erecting a plaque to someone? I don’t get it.

  8. eshine76 - Jul 13, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    As long as we are comparing different sports… Kwame Brown signed a $6 million deal today to add to his $59,182,157.00 in lifetime earnings.

    How that guy has accumulated $60 million in his career is beyond me.

  9. schlom - Jul 13, 2012 at 4:47 PM

    What exactly is the argument for putting Marvin Miller in the Baseball Hall of Fame? I understand that he’s been great for the players but has he really had much impact on the way the game is actually played on the field or to add to the fans enjoyment of the game?

    • The Dangerous Mabry - Jul 13, 2012 at 5:09 PM

      One could very reasonably argue that the strength of the MLB players’ union creates a greater incentive for talented athletes to choose Major League Baseball as a career path versus other potential sports. Any incentive which brings talent into baseball improves the quality of play on the field, and in so doing, potentially increases the enjoyment of the fans (assuming fans enjoy a higher quality of play).

      • schlom - Jul 13, 2012 at 5:25 PM

        Possibly, but I’m sure that baseball salaries have always been higher than the other sports. You could also argue that the increase in money has led to players being able to spend more money on training than they had before, but that’s an indirect benefit which probably isn’t apparent.

        The same argument goes for Scott Boras and the rest of the super agents – they’ve been great for their clients but they haven’t done a single thing to improve the actual game of basketball.

      • thebaseballidiot - Jul 13, 2012 at 5:53 PM

        Torii Hunter vehemently disagrees. You racist asshole.

    • mybrunoblog - Jul 13, 2012 at 7:20 PM

      I suspect those who advocate Miller for inclusion into the HOF look at it from almost a civil rights issue. For nearly 100 years players were beholden to their respective teams via the reserve clause. Miller led the fight to help eliminate the reserve clause thus giving birth to a new era in baseball.
      I for one feel Miller should be in the HOF. Like it or not it is hard to deny the fact that free agency has had positive effect on the game. The game has grown exponentially in so many ways over the past 40 years. The changes Miller ushered in were a big part if that growth.
      Unfortunatly I think Miller will have moved onto the next life before he ever gets in. Sad.

  10. Old Gator - Jul 13, 2012 at 7:22 PM

    I think it’s important to get Miller into the hall now, before he has to be installed in a cryogenic cylinder.

  11. plmathfoto - Jul 13, 2012 at 7:23 PM

    How about 162 games versus 16

  12. mofrombk - Jul 14, 2012 at 1:27 AM

    Miller is not a lawyer. He is an economist. Achieving and maintaining solidarity among the ranks of MLB players was not an easy task. Calling for strikes was not an easy task. Gaining free agency was not an easy task. His success is creditable to his makeup more than his circumstances.

    A lot of fans want to credit or blame him for the salaries in baseball. No one mentions that franchises are worth more, there are more of them and owners have more revenue streams for their businesses as a result.

  13. largebill - Jul 14, 2012 at 9:37 AM

    For the life of me, I don’t get the histrionics of some over a guy who never played the game not getting in the Hall of Fame. If their is a Labor Agitator Hall of Fame put him in there. His successes were in labor negotiations not in baseball. I’m sure the American Bar Association has a Hall of some sort or a lifetime achievement award and it would be perfectly reasonable for an organization like that to recognize him. However, he has no place in the Baseball Hall of Fame. If there is a need or desire to recognize non playing personnel in Cooperstown, there are lots and lots of more credible people to consider before some two-bit lawyer whose only contribution was in arguing how the pie should be divided. Every team seems to have an usher or two who worked every game for decades. That’s impressive. John Adams has been banging the drum in Cleveland for over 30 years. Heck, the guys rolling the tarp out during rain delays have more to do with the game than Miller. We enshrine managers but neglect coaches and scouts. LaRussa will stroll in Cooperstown and Dave Duncan will have to buy a ticket. As far as I’m concerned we should induct kids who have a few good games in little league before we get around to some union lawyer.

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