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Marvin Miller

Morris and Trammell elected to the Hall of Fame

The Modern Era committee has spoken.

Fittingly, Jack Morris reached the Hall of Fame in extra innings.

Morris was elected to the Hall by its Modern Era committee on Sunday along with former Detroit Tigers teammate Alan Trammell, completing a joint journey from Motown to Cooperstown.

The big-game pitcher and star shortstop were picked by 16 voters who considered 10 candidates whose biggest contributions came from 1970-87. Morris got 14 votes and Trammell drew 13, one more than the minimum needed.

They will be enshrined on July 29, and they’ll go in together. They both began their big league careers in 1977 with Detroit and played 13 seasons alongside each other with the Tigers.

See here for the background. Like many others, I just don’t have it in me to argue the Jack Morris issue any longer. It is what it is. As Jay Jaffe, the go-to person for all things Hall of Fame, says, whatever else you may think of Morris and the controversy over his candidacy, his election lowers the bar for Hall of Fame pitchers and serves as a slight to numerous contemporaries such as Bret Saberhagen, Dave Stieb, Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser and David Cone. I’ll add Kevin Appier and Frank Tanana and Tim Hudson and Wes Ferrell and Tommy John, all of whom have at least a career WAR at least ten wins higher than Morris. And that’s before we get to Mike Mussina, whose career WAR of 83.0 is nearly double Morris’ 44.1. Oh, and the continued exclusion of Marvin Miller is an utter travesty, too. But there I go arguing again. The Hall of Fame is just a museum and none of this matters. I’m going to go find my happy place now. Deadspin, which wisely focuses on Trammell’s well-deserved enshrinement, has more.

The Modern Era Hall of Fame ballot

A little bonus baseball content as we head into the long, dark off-season.

Nine former big league players and one executive comprise the 10-name Modern Baseball Era ballot to be reviewed and voted upon Dec. 10 at the Baseball Winter Meetings.

Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Luis Tiant and Alan Trammell are the candidates the Modern Baseball Era Committee will consider for Hall of Fame election for the Class of 2018. All candidates are former players except for Miller, who was the head of the Major League Baseball Players Association from 1966-82. All candidates except for Miller are living.

Any candidate who receives votes on 75 percent of the ballots cast by the 16-member Modern Baseball Era Committee will earn election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and will be inducted in Cooperstown on July 29, 2018, along with any electees who emerge from the 2018 Baseball Writers’ Association of America election, to be announced on Jan. 24, 2018.

The Modern Baseball Era is one of four Era Committees, each of which provide an avenue for Hall of Fame consideration to managers, umpires and executives, as well as players retired for more than 15 seasons.

There’s a brief bio of each candidate there, but I suggest you read Jay Jaffe for a more thorough view. I’m here for Ted Simmons, Alan Trammell, and of course Marvin Miller whose exclusion is an ongoing travesty. I fear that what we’re going to get is Jack Morris and maybe Dale Murphy, but there’s no point in worrying about that now. A better thing to ponder is why these candidates and not some alternative choices, but again, that’s the way these things go. Who would you vote for?

Hall calls for Torre, Cox, and LaRussa

Congratulations to the newest members of the Hall of Fame.

The first wave of inductees for the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame class have been announced. The Veteran’s Committee has decided to induct managers Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, and Tony La Russa:

All three managers were inducted unanimously by the 16-man committee, and absolutely no one should be shocked. They are all extremely well-loved in baseball circles and rank 3rd (La Russa, 2,728), 4th (Cox, 2,504), and 5th (Torre, 2,326) all-time in managerial wins.

All three are deserving, no question about it. However, the joy of seeing those deserving candidates get enshrined is greatly tempered by the sadness of the one that didn’t.

The other people who were on the ballot were Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Billy Martin, Dave Parker, Dan Quisenberry, Ted Simmons, Steinbrenner, and Marvin Miller. Of these nominees, I’m of the opinion that Simmons, John, and Steinbrenner should probably be honored in Cooperstown one way or another, but the biggest crime of all is the continued dismissal of the late Marvin Miller. It is a complete and utter joke that the Hall of Fame claims to honor the biggest figures in the history of baseball but has never done anything for Miller. Dayn Perry over at CBS Sports nicely sums up Miller’s slam-dunk case:

Marvin Miller

Miller is the man who, armed with his training as an economist for the United Steelworkers of America, forged the MLBPA into something more than a handmaiden to ownership, something more than a “company union.” Recounting the gains made by the players under Miller would take too much bandwidth (and keep in mind that bandwidth is not especially finite). Most notably, though, he methodically and relentlessly attacked the reserve clause — the patently unfair system that yoked a player to one team for life or until the team was done with him.

Finally, in 1975, thanks to the “test cases” of Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally, the reserve clause was overturned by arbitrator Peter Seitz, and free agency in baseball was born. In part because of that and in part because Miller was able to persuade owners to accept salary arbitration, the average major-league salary increased tenfold during Miller’s tenure. And that’s to say nothing of the pension system he created — one that’s the envy of athletes in other professional sports.

All of those are good things, both on the principle of economic freedom and in terms of making MLB a more attractive destination for athletic talent around the world. Contrary to popular misconception, free agency also improved parity and competitive balance across the league.

The players’ union was an absolute joke when Miller took over. By the time he left office, players had far more rights than ever before. The nigh-century old reserve clause was a complete injustice; Miller’s hard-fought case against it eventually led to its elimination. Average salary increased by 1,616% during his tenure. (No, that is not a typo.) Players were previously unable to file grievances against owners. As previously mentioned, anyone arguing Steinbrenner’s case better be arguing for Miller’s too, since free agency, the very institution that Steinbrenner capitalized on, would not have been possible without Miller. Miller changed the game for the better, but his continued to exclusion is why people like Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra have legitimate reasons to completely dismiss the Hall’s validity (emphasis mine):

The direct problem is one I’ve mentioned many times before, and that’s the horrendous exclusion of Marvin Miller. He’s been passed over multiple times now, and he’s probably never getting in. I’ve accepted that. I’ll never accept, however, that the Hall of Fame is anything approaching legitimate without Miller’s inclusion. Many owners, executives and commissioners — many feckless at best, some actively harmful to the game — are in the Hall. Very few of them if any have had as big an impact on how baseball operates than Miller.

Bowie Kuhn, the crappy commissioner who Miller constantly fought and triumphed over multiple times, is in the Hall of Fame while Miller remains outside. That is just completely baffling. What’s worse is that Miller apparently received even fewer votes than he did during his last vote in 2010: six at most. Coincidentally, the 16-man committee had six former players on it. Rod Carew, Carlton Fisk, Joe Morgan, Paul Molitor, Phil Niekro, and Frank Robinson better all have voted for Miller, if not only due to his effect on their salaries. The remainder of the committee consisted of managers Whitey Herzog and Tommy Lasorda, historians Steve Hirdt, Bruce Jenkins, Jack O’Connell, and Jim Reeves, and executives Andy MacPhail, Dave Montgomery, Jerry Reinsdorf, and Paul Beeston. Even if all four executives on the ballot decided to screw Miller over for what he did to them over the years, the remainder of the voting bloc could still have inducted him with the requisite 12 votes. Hirdt, Jenkins, O’Connell, and Reeves don’t deserve the title of “historian” if they didn’t vote for Miller, given how much Miller did to impact baseball history. We might never see a Hall of Fame without Marvin Miller. and until he’s elected, that gross fact likely stands as Cooperstown’s biggest failure.

I agree completely. I wish I knew what it would take to fix this massive oversight, but then the Hall of Fame stopped making sense years ago. Think Progress and Linkmeister have more.

RIP, Marvin Miller

Marvin Miller, whom Red Barber said was “one of the two or three most important men in baseball history, along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson”, has died at the age of 95.

Marvin Miller

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.

The New York Times has a thorough obit that you should read as well. Truly, Miller was one of the giants of the game, who changed it for the better in a profound way. His exclusion from the Hall of Fame is a monument to pettiness and spite, but he took it in stride. Rest in peace, Marvin Miller.

UPDATE: Keith Olbermann remembers Marvin Miller.

Herzog and Harvey to the Hall

Meet your newest members of the Hall of Fame.

Manager Whitey Herzog and umpire Doug Harvey got the call Monday, elected to the baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.

Herzog and Harvey missed by one vote in their previous tries. This time, they easily drew enough support to reach Cooperstown.

“I don’t think I would’ve had my heart broken if I’d missed by another vote or two. But I’m damn happy it’s over,” Herzog said at Busch Stadium.

“It was just in the last few years when I was only missing by a few votes that I thought, maybe I do deserve it,” he said.

He did, and I’m glad to see the Veterans Committee get this right. It’s just a shame that they didn’t get the even more glaring matter of Marvin Miller right as well.

A separate 12-person committee that reviewed 10 executives didn’t elect anyone. John Fetzer, who owned the Detroit Tigers from 1956-83, got eight votes and fell one vote short.

Miller, who became head of the players’ association in 1966 and built the union into a powerful force, drew seven votes. Jacob Ruppert, who owned the Yankees when they acquired Babe Ruth, also drew seven.

All due respect here, but what exactly are John Fetzer’s qualifications? In the 27 years he owned the team, they won one World Series (1968) and one division title (1972). That’s it. The Yankees (11), Orioles (6), Athletics (3), and Red Sox (2) all won more pennants in that time frame. I’m a pretty knowledgeable fan, but I’d never heard his name before now. Checking his Wikipedia page, the only thing I can see that would suggest an extra reason to vote for him is “[Fetzer] was active in negotiating broadcast packages for Major League Baseball.” How in the world did this guy almost get elected to the Hall? Am I missing something?

And for goodness’ sake, voting in any executive over Miller, let alone one as seemingly undistinguished as Fetzer, would be a farce. I realize the deck is stacked against Miller, to the point where’s he’s told the VC to shove it, but did they have to rub salt in it, too? Was the election of Bowie freaking Kuhn not insult enough?