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marvin miller, 1917-2012

the most important man in baseball since jackie robinson didn't make his name as a player, a coach, a manager, an agent, a journalist, or a commissioner.

Wait, the LA Dodgers will pay me what, now? Thanks, Marv!
Wait, the LA Dodgers will pay me what, now? Thanks, Marv!
Christian Petersen

maybe you can name somebody who has transformed the game of baseball more in the last 50 years than marvin miller, but i can't.

not since jackie robinson set foot on ebbets field on april 15, 1947 has one person done more to change baseball. miller, moreso than anyone - including curt flood - is the primary agent behind the elimination of one hundred years of the reserve clause, and by changing the economics of baseball, he changed the game.

not the wild card. not expansion teams. not television broadcasts. not uniform shorts. the reserve clause. that's the single innovation that has defined the game in the integrated era.

derrick goold wrote an outstanding article summarizing his life and influence on the game.

the average salary in 1975 in baseball was $44,676, and league minimum was $16,000. in 2010, the league minimum was $400,000 and the average salary was $3.34M. that means the average salary has increased 7456% and the league minimum salary has increased 2500%.

for reference, median household income in 1975 was $10,540 and in 2010 was $48,340. that means an ordinary baseball player made 423% of the ordinary household income in 1975. had household income kept up with baseball salaries in that time, you'd be taking home about $789,000 a year.

it's easy to blame miller for $12 beers at the ballpark and the endless spiraling of team budgets. the reality is that the ballpark is going to charge you as much as they can get away with for your beer, not just enough to cover payroll. miller led a fight to spread a little of the wealth from one of america's only legal monopolies around. the wealth went from being almost exclusively held by owners to being held by the players and the owners.

also, i'm pretty sure that jason giambi never demanded that taxpayers in denver or new york fund construction of his latest manse with municipal bonds, so you should give the players a break on who wears the villain mask in baseball.

notwithstanding mr. miller's contributions, Evan Longoria signed another extension the other day, and now he's making LESS money next year.

While long-time Cardinal Curt Flood played an important role in laying the groundwork for the reform of the reserve clause, he lost his court case. A few years later the players won their rights at the bargaining table, not in the courtroom.

that was miller's doing. He, incidentally, played a very key role in getting Flood's case into the courts.

The modern reserve clause has transformed into the six years of club control that we are all familiar with. The six year rule, while it has its drawbacks for players who peak early and get injured young, is a reasonably good way of balancing the need to give clubs an incentive to develop and recruit young players.

Clubs in the last 5-10 years have rediscovered the outstanding value lurking in the leftover carcass of the reserve clause. I don't know that I really understand how clubs lost sight if the remarkable power they still hold over young players. But those players, thanks to Marvin Miller, have the option to make sums of money ranging from enormous to preposterous if they make it through their six-year debuts.