Marvin Miller on Barry Bonds, drug testing and the NFL labor situation
A case could be made that Marvin Miller did more to rev up the Sports Industrial Complex than anyone in history. When he decided to represent Major League Baseball players as their union boss in 1966, salaries were scandalously low -- they had "grown" to $6,000 on average that year. And, worse, the "reserve clause" tethered a player to his team until the club saw fit to trade or release him.
Today, baseball players make an average salary of more than $3 million and, from Oliver Perez to Albert Pujols, they have considerably more leverage at the bargaining table. Not for nothing did
Still, Miller's profile is such that his phone number is listed in the Manhattan white pages. When he walks around his neighborhood on the Upper East Side, he does so unrecognized. As a matter of ritual, the Cerberus pack at the Baseball Hall of Fame declines to let him pass through the gates and acknowledge his contributions to the growth of the sport. Miller turns 94 this week. But suffice it to say that age has done little to diminish his opinions or passion. After following the Barry Bonds trial and NFL labor situation, he was kind enough to discuss what was on his mind with SI.com.
On the other side of the table are the players. And this is what no one is getting across: In an industry where the employer is carting money, the players have the lowest salaries in any team sport in America, the lowest pensions, the worst collective bargaining agreement, the shortest careers, and the worst and most serious disability rate. That's what's on the other side of the table. And nobody is explaining that. And even Obama, when he gets asked, goes into cliché mode. "Oh, I think the owners and players are sufficiently capable of dividing up $9 billion." He contributes nothing to what's going on. In fact, he obscures it.
The only reason for a salary cap is that some of the employers in the industry want to pay more; and they're going to be prevented from paying more and raising the scale, by the union. The union, that collects dues from you as members, has now entered the fray on the side of management. "We're going to limit your salaries below the point where they would be if the union disappeared tomorrow." That's the truth.