11:55 AM CST, November 27, 2012
Talking baseball while wondering how Tom Thibodeau is going to survive until Derrick Rose returns:
1. To say that Marvin Miller was as tough as nails is to compliment the strength of nails. Miller has passed away at the age of 95, and somewhere there are baseball owners – who haven’t done battle with him directly in 30 years – who know they’ve just lost the toughest adversary they ever faced.
For subsequent union leaders, he was only a little easier. Miller was relentless in holding Donald Fehr and, to a lesser degree, Michael Weiner, to the standard that he set when bringing pro sports into the light after its long robber baron era.
His mind and his commentary will be missed, and maybe now that he won’t be around to brighten the stage at Cooperstown – or, who knows, refuse to attend his induction – the Hall of Fame can get around to righting a wrong and giving Miller his due as one of the most influential figures in the game’s history.
Amazingly, Miller wasn’t elected when the Veterans Committee was composed mostly of former players, including many who benefitted hugely from free agency and salary arbitration, the twin engines that have driven baseball’s ever-escalating salaries. He missed by one vote when he was last considered by the current version of the Veterans committee (one heavy in members from ownership), in December, 2010, and will be considered again a year from now, by the Expansion Era Committee, for possible induction in 2014.
He belongs. As does Curt Flood, the idealistic pioneer who challenged the reserve clause, which for generations had bound players to the organization that signed them.
Here is some of what’s being said today about Miller:
From Weiner, the current director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, which Miller was hired to run in 1966: “All players – past, present and future – owe a debt of gratitude to Marvin, and his influence transcends baseball. Marvin, without question, is largely responsible for ushering in the modern era of sports, which has resulted in tremendous benefits to players, owners and fans of all sports. It was an honor and a privilege to have known Marvin. The industry has never witnessed a more honorable man, and his passion for helping others and his principled resolve serve as the foundation of the MLBPA to this day.’’
Said Fehr, who worked under Miller for six years before replacing him in 1982: “Marvin possessed a combination of integrity, intelligence, eloquence, courage and grace that is simply unmatched in my experience. Without question, Marvin had more positive influence on Major League Baseball than any other person in the last half of the 20th century. It was a rare privilege for me to be able to work for him and with him. All of us who knew him will miss him enormously.”
Said Commissioner Bud Selig in a statement: "Marvin Miller was a highly accomplished executive and a very influential figure in baseball history. He made a distinct impact on this sport, which is reflected in the state of the game today, and surely the major league players of the last half-century have greatly benefited from his contributions."
Said former commissioner Fay Vincent: "I think he's the most important baseball figure of the last 50 years. He changed not just the sport but the business of the sport permanently, and he truly emancipated the baseball player -- and in the process all professional athletes. Prior to his time, they had few rights; at the moment, they control the games."
In Miller’s first full season in baseball, the sport generated $50 million in revenue. It was at about $7.5 billion in 2012 and is expected to grow beyond $8 billion next season. Working together has proven to be a great formula for owners and players, and it took Miller to help owners understand that players are partners in the game, not servants to it.
2. We should have seen the Cubs’ Scott Feldman signing coming. It’s a logical marriage as the Cubs need solid pitchers to give them innings and Feldman felt he needed a team that would pencil him into the rotation. He was an important piece of Ron Washington’s staff but it didn’t seem Washington trusted him in the starting rotation. He worked in a difficult park to pitch in – Rangers Ballpark is one of the most hitter-friendly in the majors – and had adjusted to the smoking-hot summers but was let down by his fielders in 2012. Feldman’s 6-11 record had a lot to do with the nine unearned runs that were allowed behind him, almost all at crucial times. The Cubs believe that he and Scott Baker, who was recently signed with the expectation of a successful recovery from Tommy John surgery, will solidify the rotation that collapsed after Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm were traded at the July 31 deadline. “They’re both really good pitchers,’’ GM Jed Hoyer said. “Whether we’re coming off a 101-loss season or a 90-plus win season, you’re always trying to find values on the free agent market.’’
3. It looks less and less likely that the White Sox will bring back A.J. Pierzynski. While the Yankees have resumed negotiations with Russell Martin, don’t be surprised if they jump into the picture with Pierzynski. His left-handed power makes him a good fit at Yankee Stadium, and Martin’s .211 average in 2012 hangs over the talks between the teams and their incumbent catcher. I don’t see how the White Sox can lose Pierzynski and upgrade behind the plate but it seems like GM Rick Hahn isn’t opposed to giving Tyler Flowers his long-awaited shot to be a regular. Hahn is working without much payroll flexibility after investing in Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd. His chance to re-sign Pierzynski is probably contingent on a trade involving Floyd, Alex Rios or one of the middle infielders, Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham. The situation should become clearer at the winter meetings, which begin Sunday.
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