Monday, February 20, 2012

Marvin Miller

In 1966, Marvin Miller became executive director of the Major League Players Association.  Rob Ruck states, in his book Baseball:  How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black and Latin Game: Miller is the most significant figure in baseball history not in the Hall of Fame.

Miller used the acumen he had gained as chief economist and negotiator for the United Steel workers of America to consistently outmaneuver baseball owners during his 17 years as head honcho of the union.  New York Times sportswriter, Ira Berkow believed that Marvin Miller was the creator of "the most successful union not just in sports, but in the history of American labor." 

These points are indisputable, to be sure.  Because Miller led the union to two (2) critical victories: free agency and salary arbitration. (Free agency replaced the reserve clause, which had bound a player to the team that first signed him. In free agency, players are "free" to bargain with any club seeking their services after six (6) seasons in the majors.)

Salary arbitration offers players who are not yet free agents but who had spent more than two years in the majors a means to resolve salary disputes.  Both the player and his team could propose a salary to an arbiter, who could pick either the player or the team's submission as the player's salary for the next season.

The arbiter came from a pool of individuals who both the union and owners deemed acceptable, decided on the basis of how players of comparable production were paid.

Unfortunately, some teams recklessly overpaid free agents whose statistical production did not warrant such amounts.  Their salaries affected pay scales across the board and boosted the salaries of players who filed for arbitration.  Teams began submitting salary figures in excess of what they thought was justified because of the inflated salaries paid to free agents of comparable production.  As a result, players rarely lost in salary arbitration.  Mediocrity was rewarded and few ever took pay cuts no matter how poor their statistics were from the previous season.

(The book, Baseball: How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black and Latin Game by Rob Ruck is an excellent read. The aformentioned came from this book. It is easily interpreted because the writer's words are precise and to the point. Copyrighted in 2011 off Beacon Press, ( the book is relatively new with keen insights as to what took place back in the day in major league baseball.  A must read for any baseball fan. Kudos to Rob Ruck on a job well done!)

Kevin J. Marquez