Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Marvin Miller has surprising Hall of Fame booster
The push to get Marvin Miller into the Hall of Fame continues apace. Now, as Peter Gammons writes, Miller's old nemesis Ray Grebey has thrown his support behind Miller in a letter to the Hall's board of directors. Miller has Gammons' support, too ... and so does Bill James:
We know that Cooperstown leaders like Bunning, Roberts, Tom Seaver and Joe Morgan understand how tough it was when owners dominated them. Everyone who has played in a Major League game should have the good fortune to spend a few minutes with Bunning, Roberts, Seaver and Morgan to understand why Miller has such a hallowed place in baseball history.
A place similar to that of Bill James, who like Miller, belongs in the Hall. Today, as teams analyze their sport through the lens of statistical data, most of the best and the brightest know that little of this would exist were it not for James. It doesn't matter if it's management, agents, media or those millions of fans for whom the statistical aspect is so appealing, when we scroll through any of the hundreds of interesting sites that tweak the way we watch the game, they are all the children of Bill James and the Elias Sports Bureau's Hirdt family.
So now we have Grebey endorsing Miller for the Hall of Fame, and OPS, OPS-plus, UZR and WARP are all part of the daily baseball jargon.
When Manny Acta was a rookie manager with the Nationals in 2007, we were discussing two players in his office when he dropped a VORP (value over replacement player) on me. That was the day I knew James would get to Cooperstown. This week, Grebey's letter signaled the global warmth of baseball's Cold War, embarrassed the players who have not pushed for Marvin's election and re-emphasized that they don't need to break the union or rig the system for millionaires and billionaires to live in peace, love and understanding.
I've been waffling about Marvin Miller for a few years. As I understand things, though:
* the argument made against him by the voters is ... well, we don't know, because the voters' deliberations have not been public and they've not been forthcoming afterward;
* the argument made for Miller is that he would be in the Hall of Fame already if not for those cranky reactionaries who have been voting against him.
What I've not often seen are the reasoned arguments for and against him, and I believe to the bottom of my soul that both arguments do exist.
Deep in my soul, I do not believe there's a reasonable argument against Bill James. I know I don't have a great deal of credibility, but if you look at my record I think you'll find that I'm objective to a fault. Two of my all-time favorite baseball people are Buck O'Neil and Frank White; I've argued that neither belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Or rather, I argued that Frank White doesn't belong and that nobody's quite figured out how Buck O'Neil belongs. We know in our hearts that he belongs, but it was the head part that troubled just enough of the voters.
Bill James is easy, though. Henry Chadwick, who helped popularize professional baseball with his stories and his box scores, was elected many years ago as a Pioneer. A century or so later, Bill James played much the same role. There's room for Bill James in the Hall of Fame because there's room for Henry Chadwick.
But as I've noted in the past, there's no precedent for Marvin Miller. Nobody has ever been elected to the Hall of Fame because of his association with "labor." Which doesn't mean nobody should be elected. I just don't know why, if we elect Marvin Miller, we should stop with him. I believe that if Miller is elected, the doors to the Hall might eventually be opened for Donald Fehr, Scott Boras, and whoever else might come along later.
Maybe that's a good thing. I honestly don't know. It just seems like everyone's dancing around the issues and instead appealing to our guts. And I have to say, to this point that's not been working real well for Marvin Miller.