Nov 27, 2012, 10:30 AM EST
Marvin Miller, the legendary leader of the Major League Baseball Player’s Association, has died at age 95. No word on the exact cause of death, but he had been ill for some time.
It is impossible to overstate Miller’s impact on Major League Baseball. While some — including Hall of Fame voters — have long given Miller short shrift (or piled on utter disdain), baseball today cannot be understood without understanding Marvin Miller’s contributions. He was a truly transformative figure who, after Jackie Robinson, did more to correct the excesses and injustices delivered onto players by baseball’s ruling class than anyone.
When Miller took over as the head of the MLBPA in 1966 there was no free agency. Players were told by ownership what they would make the following year and if they didn’t like it, tough. They couldn’t switch teams. They couldn’t do what any other worker can do and shop their services elsewhere. They were stuck thanks to baseball’s reserve clause and the ridiculous Supreme Court decision which exempted baseball and its owners from the antitrust laws.
Miller took all of that on and he won. He started small, negotiating the union’s first collective bargaining agreement with the team owners in 1968, which raised the game’s minimum salary from $6,000 to $10,000. In 1970 he got the owners to agree to arbitration for the first time. In 1970 Curt Flood, with Miller’s support and guidance, challenged baseball’s antitrust exemption — and the dreaded reserve clause, which kept players tied to one team against their wishes — in the courts. Flood ultimately lost that case in the landmark 1972 Supreme Court decision. The decision did not, however, blunt Miller’s resolve, and he took his fight to other forums.
In 1974 he exploited a loophole — and an oversight by Oakland Athletics owner Charlie O. Finley — to get Catfish Hunter free agency and baseball’s first $1 million contract. Up next: the whole enchilada. In 1974, he got Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally to play out the season without contracts, placing them in cross-hairs of the reserve clause and giving them standing to fight the provision in arbitration. In 1975 they won, with the Seitz Decision ushering in the age of free agency. Baseball players’ indentured servitude was over.
In all Miller led the union through three work stoppages: two short ones — 1972 and in spring training 1980 — and then the long, season-altering strike in 1981. In all three stoppages, the union prevailed. Overall during his tenure the average players’ salary rose from $19,000 to $241,000 a year and their working conditions improved dramatically. It is no understatement to say that Miller turned the MLBPA into the most effective and successful labor union in the United States. Not just in sports: in the entire United States.
Miller, however, paid a cost for these victories, being snubbed repeatedly in Hall of Fame voting. Baseball’s executives — who played a part in his voting — resented him. Some players on the Veteran’s Committee who came before the era of free agency did as well. Miller never helped his own case, of course — he was at terms feisty, abrasive and mostly dismissive of the Hall of Fame and his own candidacy for it — but the fact remains that his exclusion is a travesty. This is especially true given that so many executives and owners who did so much to harm players’ well-being through greed, racism and other vile impulses have been welcomed in to Cooperstown with open arms.
But whether he ever makes the Hall of Fame or not, baseball would not be what it is today, both as a business and a game, without Marvin Miller. Indeed, you can count the people who have made as great or greater a contribution than Miller to the context in which the game is played on one hand. In this regard his legacy is inviolate.
RIP Marvin Miller. The game will never see his like again.
Nov 26, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
It’s like clockwork. A team signs a big free agent or two and someone argues that baseball is doomed without a salary cap. It’s always baloney, of course.
Nov 25, 2014, 10:12 PM EST
Max Scherzer, a client of Scott Boras, seems comfortable with slow-playing this market. We’ve seen loads of rumors and reports involving the other prominent free agent ace, Jon Lester, but it’s hard to identify which teams are in the running at the moment for Max. The Giants may be one …
Nov 25, 2014, 8:47 PM EST
Via Jeeho Yoo of Seoul’s Yonhap News, right-hander Lucas Harrell and outfielder Jim Adduci both agreed to one-year deals Tuesday in the Korea Baseball Organization — Harrell with the KIA Tigers for $900K and Adduci with the Lotte Giants for $650K.
Nov 25, 2014, 7:51 PM EST
Arizona has been mentioned before as a potential landing spot for Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, but it was never really considered a strong likelihood. Maybe that perception should be changing …
Nov 25, 2014, 6:38 PM EST
The Red Sox have officially introduced Hanley Ramirez and his new four-year, $88 million pact. Juan Francisco was DFA’d in the process.
Nov 25, 2014, 5:40 PM EST
Darvish missed the final six weeks of the season with an elbow injury.
Nov 25, 2014, 5:25 PM EST
Possibly well-intentioned, possibly grandstanding. But it’s hard to see how this is in Congress’ bailiwick.
Nov 25, 2014, 4:46 PM EST
What would happen to Lonnie Chisenhall?
Nov 25, 2014, 3:46 PM EST
Based on what we know at the moment, the Cubs’ offer is the richest one out there.
Nov 25, 2014, 3:15 PM EST
Swarzak was due for a raise to around $1.5 million via arbitration.
Nov 25, 2014, 3:03 PM EST
Technology itself hasn’t changed how reporters do their jobs. Rather reader demand, newly obvious by technology, has done so.
Nov 25, 2014, 1:47 PM EST
Matsuzaka spent the past two seasons with the Mets.
Nov 25, 2014, 1:20 PM EST
Martinez served as Joe Maddon’s right-hand man since 2008.
Nov 25, 2014, 1:00 PM EST
They’ve been linked to Justin Upton and Matt Kemp. But another power bat is a possibility.
Nov 25, 2014, 12:46 PM EST
Lavarnway was once a top-100 prospect.
Nov 25, 2014, 12:15 PM EST
Breslow spent the past three seasons with the Red Sox.
Nov 25, 2014, 11:31 AM EST
Included: Fred and Jeff.
Nov 25, 2014, 11:03 AM EST
At least to the extent you still have them. Because it ain’t happening.
Nov 25, 2014, 10:30 AM EST
The first rule of Hall of Fame Ballot Club: Use all ten slots on your ballot. The second rule of Hall of Fame Ballot Club: USE ALL TEN SLOTS ON YOUR BALLOT.
Nov 25, 2014, 10:15 AM EST
Nelson was the ninth overall pick in the 2004 draft.
- No, the Red Sox signing Pablo and Hanley is not proof that baseball needs a salary cap 0
- Red Sox announce four-year, $88 million deal with Hanley Ramirez, DFA Juan Francisco 33
- The Cubs have offered Jon Lester “north of $135 million” 60
- Pablo Sandoval’s deal: five years, $98 million plus an option 42
- Kyle Seager, Mariners close to $100 million extension 25
- The 2015 Hall of Fame ballot is out — Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez are new on the ballot 286
- So what would the Red Sox look like with Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval? 49
- UPDATE: Red Sox finalizing a 4-year, $88 million deal with Hanley Ramirez, with a vesting option 35
- The 2015 Hall of Fame ballot is out — Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez are new on the ballot (286)
- More Hall of Fame ballots like Adam Rubin’s please (137)
- UPDATE: The Pablo Sandoval-Red Sox deal is done, pending a physical (133)
- Report: Pablo Sandoval chose the Red Sox over the Giants because he felt disrespected (132)
- Report: “There is a 90 percent chance that Pablo Sandoval will sign with the Red Sox” (130)