Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Marvin Miller, who organized and led baseball players union, dies at 95

NEW YORK — Of all the kind words expressed Tuesday on Marvin Miller's death at the age of 95, two stood out.

Thank you.

The debt of gratitude owed to Mr. Miller, whose game-changing tenure as executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association forever altered the business of professional sports, is impossible to calculate.

But in fighting — and winning — the battle for free agency in baseball, Mr. Miller helped grant players the right to eventually choose their workplace and earn as much as a competitive market would bear. That, in turn, transformed athletes into multimillionaires, a process Mr. Miller began when he helped to form the players union in 1966.

Mr. Miller died of liver cancer early Tuesday morning in his Manhattan home.

"I think he's the most important baseball figure of the last 50 years," former commissioner Fay Vincent said. "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."

"Sad to hear about the passing of Mr. Miller," Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey said Tuesday on his Twitter account. "He will be missed. A true pioneer. Thank you, Marvin."

Players attending the union's annual executive board meeting in New York said their professional lives are Mr. Miller's legacy.

"Anyone who's ever played modern professional sports owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. Miller," Dodgers pitcher Chris Capuano said. "He empowered us as players. He gave us ownership of the game we play. Anyone who steps on a field in any sport, they have a voice because of him."

If not for Mr. Miller's revolutionary efforts, players such as Dickey would be in much different situations, not to mention radically different tax brackets. When Mr. Miller was hired, and MLB teams still employed the reserve clause to control their players, the minimum salary was $6,000, with an average of $19,000.

"Nobody realized how gargantuan the task was," Mr. Miller said years later. "Major-league players were, at the time, truly brainwashed."

When Mr. Miller left in 1982, the average salary was $241,000, and it has skyrocketed since, with a present-day average of more than $3 million and $480,000 minimum.

It didn't come without a price.

Mr. Miller's hard-nosed tactics resulted in three work stoppages for baseball, including the first strike in professional sports history in 1972. The endgame, of course, was an unqualified victory that the players enjoy now more than ever.

"His influence transcends baseball," current MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner said. "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 for the MLBPA to this day. Marvin was a champion among champions, and his legacy will live on forever."

That legacy had relatively humble beginnings. Initially, there was opposition to Mr. Miller — a labor economist for the United Steelworkers of America — as players and owners shared concern about bringing in someone with a strong union background. Mostly, it came from the owners, who had obvious reasons to fear Mr. Miller. He seemed to revel in the confrontation between the two sides, just as his successors in that role have done.

"Marvin possessed a combination of integrity, intelligence, eloquence, courage and grace that is simply unmatched in my experience," said former MLBPA executive director Don Fehr, who worked under Mr. Miller as general counsel from 1977-82.

"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."

Mr. Miller's part in two landmark cases against MLB ultimately paved the way for free agency. First was Cardinals outfielder Curt Flood, who refused to report after he was traded to the Phillies in 1969. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the reserve clause in that case, but the foundation had been shaken, and Mr. Miller's later backing of two pitchers who didn't sign their contract renewals — Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally — finally broke it in 1975.

The sporting world has never been the same.

"Mr. Miller forged wings for modern-day baseball, the 'Wright' of baseball's soaring flight," agent Scott Boras said on Twitter. "Thank you."

Despite his tremendous influence on the game, Mr. Miller has been kept out of Cooperstown (he received 43 percent of the required 75 percent of votes in 2003, and 63 percent in 2007), showing that his reign generated plenty of animosity among baseball's power brokers, many of whom were angered by his goals and the methods he used to get there.

With baseball's extended period of labor peace, maybe time will heal those wounds and the Hall of Fame will open its doors to Mr. Miller.

"Mr. Miller was a highly accomplished executive and a very influential figure in baseball history," commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "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."

Comments
Rays’ trade silence likely a short-lived phenomenon

Rays’ trade silence likely a short-lived phenomenon

LAKE BUENA VISTA — There were a lot of reasons the Rays didn’t start the process of trading some of their bigger-name, higher-paid players at last week’s winter meetings.Most obvious was them not finding the just-right deal to move closer Alex Colome...
Published: 12/16/17
No big deal for Rays at winter meetings, but it’s still coming

No big deal for Rays at winter meetings, but it’s still coming

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Here’s the one thing we definitely know:Rays officials headed home from the winter meetings and back across I-4 Thursday without making deals to trade any of their bigger-name, higher-paid players. Not closer Alex Colome, not third...
Published: 12/14/17
Are Tampa Bay Rays going to make a major deal involving Alex Colome, others? Well …

Are Tampa Bay Rays going to make a major deal involving Alex Colome, others? Well …

UPDATE, 4:02: It doesn't sound like the Rays and Cardinals will be making a deal today, Derrick Goold writing for the St. Louis Post Dispatch that Cardinals execs "leave the Walt Disney Dolphin resort with good feel for what Tampa Bay would be willin...
Published: 12/14/17
Rays re-sign pitcher Jonny Venters, among 13 invited to spring training

Rays re-sign pitcher Jonny Venters, among 13 invited to spring training

LAKE BUENA VISTA — LHP Jonny Venters got as far as Triple A in September. Now the former All-Star is positioned to make it all the way back to the majors for the first time since 2012, re-signing with the Rays and headlining Thursday’s announcement o...
Published: 12/14/17
Veteran Jonny Venters, prospect Joe McCarthy among 13 Tampa Bay Rays spring invitees

Veteran Jonny Venters, prospect Joe McCarthy among 13 Tampa Bay Rays spring invitees

Inspiring veteran LHP Jonny Venters and intriguing prospect 1B/OF Joe McCarthy are among 13 players invited to major-league spring training camp with the Rays.Others coming as a result of signing minor-league contracts with invites are: RHP R.J. Alan...
Published: 12/14/17
Tampa Bay Rays lose RHP Burch Smith in Rule 5 draft, keep Nick Ciuffo

Tampa Bay Rays lose RHP Burch Smith in Rule 5 draft, keep Nick Ciuffo

The Rays lost RHP Burch Smith in Thursday's Rule 5 draft but were happy to see him get an opportunity in Kansas City.They also were pleased to hang on to C Nick Ciuffo, who was left exposed but not selected.Smith, 27, was acquired from the Padres as ...
Published: 12/14/17
Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 4

Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 4

UPDATE, 11:09: RHP Steve Cishek, who was a very effective addition to the Rays pen last season, has reunited with pitching coach Jim Hickey, agreeing to a deal with the Cubs.UPDATE, 10:40: Like most teams, Rays officials are heading out of the meetin...
Published: 12/14/17
Disney-Fox deal gives ESPN control of local cable rights to Rays, Lightning games

Disney-Fox deal gives ESPN control of local cable rights to Rays, Lightning games

As part of its deal to buy a massive package of 21st Century Fox assets, Disney will acquire Fox Sports Regional Networks, which control the local cable rights to a slew of professional teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning.Assu...
Published: 12/14/17
Tampa Bay Rays making progress in trade talks

Tampa Bay Rays making progress in trade talks

Without getting into specifics – especially the who and the where – Rays officials are for the first time talking optimistically about making a trade before the winter meetings end Thursday.Speaking at around 5:15, senior VP Chaim Bloom s...
Published: 12/13/17

Winter meetings journal: Rays trade for money to sign top international free agent

LAKE BUENA VISTA — While most of the business conducted at the meetings impacts the big-league team one way or another, the Rays are working to finalize a move they hope pays off big sometime in the 2020s.In trading Wednesday to acquire $1 million in...
Published: 12/13/17