Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Miller time

Marvin Miller didn't play baseball, but it would be difficult to think of anyone who was a more consequential figure in the baseball world in the last 50 years. Miller was the head of the Major League Baseball Players Association from 1966 through 1982, but his influence went well beyond his tenure. He was instrumental in bringing the end of the reserve clause and the start of free agency, and baseball salaries increased exponentially as a result of his leadership. He changed the game. And the powers that be hated him.

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Marvin Miller

Miller is one of 10 candidates for the Hall of Fame that the Veterans Committee will consider next month, along with nine "Modern Era" players, including the following:

Dwight Evans
Steve Garvey
Tommy John
Don Mattingly
Thurman Munson
Dale Murphy
Dave Parker
Ted Simmons
Lou Whitaker

I saw all of these guys play; the only one I didn't see in person was Garvey, but he was one of the most prominent players of the era and he was on television all the time, especially during his time with the Dodgers. Do you think of any of these guys as worthy of the Hall?

At this point, all of them probably deserve a look, especially if Harold Baines is the standard. If I had a ballot and could pick four, I'd pick Miller and then Whitaker, Simmons, and Murphy. Munson was a fine player, but he was already in decline as a player when he died in a plane crash. Garvey was a good offensive player, but he was a poor defensive first baseman. Evans and Parker strike me as classic examples of very good players who didn't do enough to merit consideration. Mattingly was a great player but his career ended too soon because of injuries. I think John has a fairly strong case, but no stronger than Jim Kaat, who is also on the outside looking in.

There aren't a lot of second basemen in the Hall and Whitaker is probably the best one not there, although you could also make an argument for Bobby Grich. Whitaker's double play partner, Alan Trammell, is already in the Hall and deservedly so. Whitaker and Trammell might be the best overall double play combo of all time. Whitaker also had surprising power for a middle infielder, with 244 career homers. He also won three Gold Gloves. That's a Hall of Fame career.

Simmons got lost because he played his career in the shadow of Johnny Bench, but in his best seasons he was Bench's equal. A switch hitting catcher who was a career .285 hitter with power, Simmons was the face of the Cardinals in one of their few lean periods, but he was also a key member of the only Brewers team to appear in a World Series. If I had to choose between Simmons and Munson, it would be no contest.

Murphy won back-to-back MVP awards in the 1980s and was a perennial Gold Glove outfielder. He also hit 398 home runs in his career, although in a favorable hitter's park (Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, a/k/a the Launching Pad). If you think of the best players in the National League in that era, he has to be on the list. Parker was his contemporary and played on better teams, but wasn't as consistent.

What do you think?

3 comments:

R.A. Crankbait said...

I think Miller has a spot in the HOF, though his contributions weren't on the field. His efforts came to late for Curt Flood, who first challenged the reserve clause (all the way to the Supreme Court). I have long thought that every free agent signing a contract today should send a small percentage - or even a fraction of a percent - to Flood's widow in gratitude and in honor of his courage.

R.A. Crankbait said...

Mattingly was a very good player, but I will always hold a grudge for how - being a Yankee - he constantly blocked Kent Hrbek from the All Star teams.

Petercorp said...

I'd say Miller, Tommy, Lou, and I can't decide between Dale or Ted.