Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Marvin Miller - Steinbrenner HOF Debate

The Veterans Committee, or whatever they are calling themselves these days, will soon vote to give some former players a second look and decide if the writers overlooked them when they were on the Hall of Fame ballot. Ted Simmons is one of those players and this writer wholeheartedly supports Simmons for the Hall of Fame. Among the players, some non-players will also be considered. Billy Martin is one of those who will be considered as a manager. The two biggest names on the list are also the most controversial. They are George Steinbrenner and Marvin Miller. It's sort of ironic that these two men are being considered together after years of being on the opposite sides of the negotiation table.

Let's start with George Steinbrenner because that seems to be the easiest. But for some, he may be the most difficult. The arguments this Fan has heard (read) include that he was indicted for improper campaign contributions. They will also argue that his dirty investigations of Dave Winfield should keep him out of the Hall of Fame. Others say he just died and it should wait a while.

The last argument is the one with which this Fan has the biggest problem. It's very similar to the notion that only a select few players should be voted into the Hall on the first year of eligibility. What a bunch of hooey. The only decision to make is whether or not a player--or in this case, a person--should be included in the Hall of Fame or not. It's that simple. Yes or no. Black or white. Decide. If Steinbrenner deserves to be in the Hall of Fame because of his contributions to baseball, that won't change two years from now or five or ten. Either he should be elected or he shouldn't. If he should, now is just as good a time as five years from now.

What these elitists are trying to do is to put artificial layers to the players voted into the Hall of Fame. In other words, if a guy is a top tier player or person then the first ballot (or now) is okay. If he is a second tier player or person, then wait a year or five. There are no layers in the Hall of Fame. There isn't a raised area dedicated to only Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. There is no second layer for a guy like Joe Morgan and Bob Gibson with a third layer for the Lou Brocks and Phil Neikros of the world. Nobody announces Joe Morgan as a, "Second Tier Hall of Famer." He's simply a Hall of Fame player. Simple. So waiting to vote on Morgan a year or five or ten is just stupid. The only time it isn't stupid is if a voter has a change of heart down the road and a bunch of other voters do the same thing and a guy gets elected.

Thus the Steinbrenner argument that his bones are barely cold in the ground are stupid. Either his accomplishments and his influence on the game are Hall-worthy or they aren't. This Fan happens to think he is. Look, the guy made some mistakes. But he paid for them. He served his suspensions. Yeah, he broke the law. So did Paul Molitor. But Steinbrenner took a once proud franchise that had fallen on hard times and made it the most amazing brand in sports. By doing so, he raised the interest level in the game, helped bring road attendance up so that all teams made more money playing the Yankees. He meddled too much with his teams, but no one can deny the state of the Yankees when he bought them versus when he died.

Marvin Miller is a tougher argument. He was a labor leader. He helped establish a climate that shut the game down for two seasons. 1991 would never have happened if he hadn't united the players and set a goal that eventually raised their stake in the game. That's one way of looking at it. The other is that he was an emancipator. He helped end an unconstitutional premise that the owners carried out for years. He helped usher in a new era where players could participate in the profits of the game and contrary to the dire predictions, those events did not lead to the downfall of baseball. Baseball is in tremendously good shape despite the economy. There are very few people in the last fifty years that have influenced the game more than Marvin Miller. Not all of those influences benefit fans. But so be it. For all we know, Miller could care less about being in the Hall of Fame. And for all we know, he may covet that vote. It doesn't matter. The only question is if Marvin Miller helped shape and influence major league baseball in a way that is worthy of the Hall of Fame. This Fan says yes.

The Fan didn't always like Steinbrenner and never liked Marvin Miller. But perhaps, those are just two of the reasons that make them the influences they were. The sport is different because they touched it. And that is the true test of whether a non-player belongs in the Hall of Fame. And that touch doesn't always have to be one that sits well in the stomach.


Josh Borenstein said...

Love 'em or hate 'em, no one can deny their impact on the game. I say they should get in.

bobook said...

I'm with Josh. Both impacted the game greatly.