Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Marvin Miller - Hall of Fame?

The great Peter Gammons, now toiling for MLB.com, wrote a great piece on why Marvin Miller should be in the Hall of Fame. The Fan has to admit that it makes a lot of sense and thaws a few of the hard feelings brought up by the mere mention of Miller's name.

After all, it was Miller who stopped baseball. It was Miller who so united the players that the 1981 season and the 1984 season will forever be a blot on fandom everywhere. Let's face it, this blog is written from a fan's perspective. We didn't care about what was right and what was wrong. All we cared about was that our passion and our joy was being pulled apart by this upstart, Marvin Miller.

Deep down we knew that the owners of baseball had it made when it came to ruling their fiefdoms. Holdouts such as the one pulled in tandem by Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax were rare. And we knew it was rare because the owners had all the chips on the table. They owned the players and could do whatever they wanted.

But most of us fans were willing to keep a blind eye to that sort of thing as long as our games and seasons rolled on uninterrupted and unchallenged. We incorrectly perceived Miller to be the bad guy because it if wasn't for him, none of that unpleasantness might have happened.

Of course, this perspective might be different in union towns such as Detroit or Pittsburgh. Those communities had long union histories and already knew the perils of company owners who had unfair advantages over the workers they employed. It's quite possible in those places that Marvin Miller was a hero.

It is only in hindsight that we understand that players being "owned" forever by their teams is wrong. It is only fair in looking back that players get a bigger slice of the revenue their services generate. It's only fair that after a few years of service to their teams that they have a right to seek out alternate paths for their careers.

Fairly or not, unions and their officials are viewed in many places of our country as mafia fronts or in other unflattering ways. When the Fan worked in factories (early in his manhood), it seemed better that the guy who owned the company telling us what to do than some unseen union head in another city far away. So those thoughts all lingered and added to the perception that Marvin Miller was the creep that ruined baseball.

In retrospect, the battle between Miller, his players and the owners was epic. And Miller was so successful in what he did that the entire financial face of baseball changed as a result. Of course, there are some negatives that came about. The free agency system made it easier for rich teams to stay rich and poor teams to lose their talent. But it's a far better system than ball players only being commodities with no rights. Millers epic work also made it possible for those retired from the game to be cared for and remembered. The first work stoppage was about pension benefits for those who don't know or remember.

So yeah, thanks Mr. Gammons. It seems time to soften on Miller. Sometimes the most gifted men on the planet are the most hated. The Fan always had some healthy dislike for the man. But it's time to acknowledge that his cause was right and his success at achieving victory in those causes was nothing short of brilliant.


Josh Borenstein said...

The Union has waaaaay too much power now, but Miller revolutionized the game. I'd reluctantly vote for him.

bobook said...

No question Miller deserves the H.o.F. His effect on the game is beyond question despite one's opinion if it was good or bad.
Don't know if I'd agree with Josh that the union has too much power. I would feel differently if baseball had a commissioner who placed the interests of the game, and its fans, above the owners' interests.