George Steinbrenner and Marvin Miller didn’t make it into the baseball Hall of Fame?
OK, that’s fine. If you don’t want two of the most influential people in the history of the sport recognized for their contributions, so be it.
Steinbrenner, personal flaws notwithstanding (and, like a lot of extraordinarily wealthy people, he wasn’t the nicest guy in the room), gave every owner in baseball (and, frankly, in sports) the blueprint on how to do it.
Easy summary — Make the fans pay for it. If you reward them with a product they can be proud of, they’ll pay for it and gladly do so.
George Steinbrenner was the guy who figured it all out. It’s about television and revenue and re-investing in the franchise. Sure, his market could support a larger investment in that payroll based on the income they generated, but what would have made Steinbrenner more of a heel — bringing in $400 million in revenue and only spending $80 million of it on his product or bringing in $400 million in revenue and putting half of that back into the playing roster to produce an organization his fan base would continue to support?
These days, the Steinbrenner plan has been adopted — successfully in most cases — by the Red Sox, Tigers, Rangers, Angels, Dodgers, Mariners, Nationals
and Orioles. Well, actually, we haven’t figured out the third part of the equation here in Baltimore. We have the TV network and the revenue, but we don’t reinvest those funds in the product. Someday, we’ll get it right.
George Steinbrenner belongs in the Hall of Fame just as much as Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa.
So does Marvin Miller, honestly.
In fact, Miller belongs in one minute ahead of Steinbrenner.
Whether or not you and I like the fact that barely mediocre players can scoop up $2 million a year for hitting .250, the fact remains that Miller’s intestinal fortitude on behalf of the players forever changed the landscape of the blueprint Steinbrenner developed.
Miller was the guy who said — “You’re not going to take advantage of the employees.”
Did he strong-arm the owners and the sport? Sure.
Was he, in part, responsible for a segment of the fan base becoming forever turned-off by a sport that paid people entirely more money than the effort required to perform their duties should have allowed? No doubt.
But, Marvin Miller wasn’t employed by the fans and his daily goal wasn’t to appease them.
Marvin Miller worked for the players and his job was to fight the owners on behalf of them.
He did that at such a remarkable rate of success he forever changed the landscape of compensation for anyone who plays baseball for a living.
Personally, there are a lot of things about the Marvin Miller era that I still believe are ruinous to the sport and the competitive nature of 30 different “units” trying to compete with one another and do it on a somewhat level playing field.
But, Marvin Miller didn’t work for me.
He worked for the players.
And, as we know with every sport, the game is always about the players.
The fans matter. The owners matter. The front office folks matter.
Without players, there’s no game.
Marvin Miller knew that better than anyone.
So did Steinbrenner.