If there’s a topic that brings up a vocal debate among those that follow baseball outside the lines, the Hall of Fame voting results each year rates right up there with the best of them. In terms of looking at the Veterans Committee vote, and specifically the absence of Marvin Miller from the Hall, the question comes down to either, “How can you not have Miller in the Hall of Fame?”, or “Miller’s impact is not as great as it’s often portrayed.”
Indeed, the man that was instrumental in pulling the players together, bringing out a cohesive unionized force to be reckoned with, has done nothing more than bring salary arbitration, free agency, and many would say, labor strife, to the history of Major League Baseball. He led the MLBPA from 1966 to 1982 and is still talked of in his relationship to those that have followed, namely Don Fehr, and now Michael Weiner.
Miller has been absent the Hall over politics. He has either been seen by the Veterans Committee – a group almost exclusively made up of those on the management side of the fence – as a man that increased player salaries, and shifted the power away from the owners.
Last year, no executives were elected to the Hall – no one garnered the requisite 75 percent of the vote for inclusion in the 2010 class by way of the Veterans Committee for Executives and Pioneers. Miller pulled in 7 of 12 votes tying him with Jacob Ruppert, the former owner of the Yankees. Miller was 2 votes shy. Lost in the news that Miller missed the cut (again) was that former Tigers owner John Fetzer pulled in 8 of 12 votes.
In the year prior, Miller pulled in just 3 of 12 votes by the Veterans Committee, and to add salt into the wound of backers of Miller, was beat out by Bowie Kuhn the former commissioner of the league and the one most closely tied with Miller as the key changes for the players (salary arbitration, free agency) occurred while Kuhn was commissioner.
This year, the Veterans Committee makeup has changed. There are now 16 members, with the key change to the voting process now focusing on three eras, as opposed to four categories, with three separate electorates to consider a single composite ballot of managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players.
The problem for Miller in this “Expansion Era Committee” vote may be who he is up against. The 12 individuals who will be considered are former players Vida Blue, Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Ron Guidry, Tommy John, Al Oliver, Ted Simmons and Rusty Staub; former manager Billy Martin; and executives Pat Gillick, Miller and the man that could thwart Miller for another year, George Steinbrenner.
Steinbrenner is a looming figure, reshaping the Yankees after leading the purchase of the club from CBS on January 3, 1973 for approx. $10 million. Over the course of over 37 seasons the Yankees won 11 World Series championships, 11 AL pennants and won the AL East sixteen times. As of last year, not including YES Network, Forbes valued the Yankees at $1.6 billion, nearly double the value of the second highest valued club, the Boston Red Sox (see historical Forbes valuations).
Miller will be 94 in April of next year. Steinbrenner died on July 13th of this year, the day of the 2010 All-Star Game. There is an old saying that you can’t compete with a ghost. With Steinbrenner’s legacy played out over and over during the recent months, his accomplishments will be much more memorable for many on the Committee’s stage
But, if there’s a glimmer of hope for Miller, it may be the makeup of the Expansion Era Committee. Unlike years past, the new committee sees more players than there has been in the recent votes.
The Expansion Era Committee is made up of Johnny Bench, Whitey Herzog, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Tony Perez, Frank Robinson, Ryne Sandberg and Ozzie Smith; major league executives Bill Giles (Phillies), David Glass (Royals), Andy MacPhail (Orioles) and Jerry Reinsdorf (White Sox); and veteran media members Bob Elliott (Toronto Sun), Tim Kurkjian (ESPN), Ross Newhan (retired, Los Angeles Times) and Tom Verducci (Sports Illustrated).
So, the debate will be, should Steinbrenner go in on the first vote, or should Miller finally get his due? The voting results will be made available Monday Dec. 6th, on the first day of the Baseball Winter Meetings. Myself, David Appelman, and Dave Cameron will all be attending the meetings this year. I will be reporting the results as soon as it is announced.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, as well as a contributor to FanGraphs and Forbes SportsMoney. He is available for freelance and looks forward to your comments.