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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bill James: How Marvin Miller Turned Shortstops Into Sheiks

or…Old-hats into Farhats

There are basically three reasons why Marvin Miller was able to transform major league baseball players from moderately well-paid young men into athletic Vanderbilts being paid, in some cases, about $30,000 per at-bat, or $100,000 an inning.

First, Miller spent several years building solidarity in his work force, setting small objectives, winning small battles, and thus further solidifying his cadre. Second, Miller—having worked for unions for decades before he came to baseball—had a deep understanding of the intricacies of labor law. Third, for more than a decade, Miller was matched against baseball executives who had little understanding of labor law and even less interest. As far as they could tell, labor law was written in Swahili, and so they learned the hard way: They were told repeatedly by the courts that what they were trying to do was illegal.

...The work stoppages gave fodder to baseball executives who were perpetually painting Miller as a Svengali interfering in the play of children—yet, in truth, Miller won his battles in the press by a margin almost as large as his victories in the courts. The real miracle of Marvin Miller’s career is not merely that he added strings of zeroes to the salary schedule but that he was able to convince most ordinary Americans that paying baseball players like sheiks was simple fairness.

Repoz Posted: November 29, 2012 at 06:15 AM | 67 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: November 29, 2012 at 06:35 AM (#4312132)
Yeah, Miller's a miracle worker. It's not like there are any other examples where unionized labor led to a grossly overpaid workforce to the ultimate determent of the industry. Oh wait, that's every example of a unionized workforce.

   2. Bhaakon Posted: November 29, 2012 at 06:43 AM (#4312135)
Yeah, Miller's a miracle worker. It's not like there are any other examples where unionized labor led to a grossly overpaid workforce to the ultimate determent of the industry. Oh wait, that's every example of a unionized workforce.


Eh, they're only grossly overpaid as long as the jobs can be outsourced to places where wage slavery isn't just a figure of speech. Fortunately, the baseball hasn't caught on in China.
   3. Bug Selig Posted: November 29, 2012 at 07:43 AM (#4312141)
Eh, they're only grossly overpaid as long as the jobs can be outsourced to places where wage slavery isn't just a figure of speech.


Nonsense. The Detroit area is full of people who make six figures for doing jobs any high school graduate could learn in an hour.
   4. Tricky Dick Posted: November 29, 2012 at 07:53 AM (#4312143)


Nonsense. The Detroit area is full of people who make six figures for doing jobs any high school graduate could learn in an hour.


The same can be said of a lot of executives I know. The Peter Principle is alive and well in most executives suites in corporate America.
   5. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: November 29, 2012 at 07:59 AM (#4312144)
Nonsense. The Detroit area is full of people who make six figures for doing jobs any high school graduate could learn in an hour.
That is stupid and false.
It's not like there are any other examples where unionized labor led to a grossly overpaid workforce to the ultimate determent of the industry.
Even if this were true - and looking at baseball it's hard to see it - I don't know why I should an abstract "industry" over actual people and actual workers. (Especially since by "industry" I'm pretty sure you mean "the owners of the particular firms within the industry".)
   6. Jorge Luis Bourjos (Walewander) Posted: November 29, 2012 at 09:10 AM (#4312156)

Yeah, baseball is sure doing terrible. And isn't America's economy doing great now that private sector unionism is basically non-existent? Thank god it's not like the black misery of the 50s and 60s.
   7. Matt Welch Posted: November 29, 2012 at 09:55 AM (#4312180)
It's not like there are any other examples where unionized labor led to a grossly overpaid workforce to the ultimate determent of the industry. Oh wait, that's every example of a unionized workforce.

Funny; as a customer of the industry, I find modern baseball to be great. It's also super-profitable for owner and employee alike, though it is true that a bunch of that comes on the backs of gullible or unwilling taxpayers (a point that Marvin Miller never tired of lamenting). Major League Baseball, unlike, say, Detroit, does not face significant overseas competition providing commodity products to a global market.
   8. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: November 29, 2012 at 10:05 AM (#4312187)
Yeah, it's really a shame how baseball has fallen apart over the last 30 years. Damn that Marvin Miller!
   9. bookbook Posted: November 29, 2012 at 10:23 AM (#4312203)
If only Ayn Rand could come in and save the day! (Unfortunately, she was more of a pugilist than a ballplayer.)
   10. TomH Posted: November 29, 2012 at 10:27 AM (#4312209)
Discuss: MLB as it exists in North America is essentially closer to playing in a "right to work" state than a "you must be unionized" state; if another league sprung up, there is no reason fans, media and $$ would not flow to it naturally if the product were good.
If true, the comparison of MLB players made in #1 is kinda silly.
   11. McCoy Posted: November 29, 2012 at 10:44 AM (#4312222)
There are basically three reasons why Marvin Miller was able to transform major league baseball players from moderately well-paid young men into athletic Vanderbilts being paid, in some cases, about $30,000 per at-bat, or $100,000 an inning.

With or without Marvin Miller salaries were going to rise and ballplayers were going to make a lot of money.
   12. AROM Posted: November 29, 2012 at 11:02 AM (#4312237)
If only Ayn Rand could come in and save the day!


In the other Miller thread, non other than Andy said that Ayn Rand would have been on the side of the ballplayers. Sounds true enough. It would be easy to re-write Atlas Shrugged with a baseball theme. The MLB owners fit her caricature of the evil businessmen like Jim Taggart and Orren Boyle (mooching through publicly funded stadiums, the reserve clause).

To make it into a novel "Who is Curt Flood?" would not be a lone protester against the system. He'd recruit the top 30 or so players, then they disappear and go play all-star games against each other in a hidden valley in the Rockies* while the quality of baseball play in the rest of the world deteriorates into a comedy.

*Any statistics from Flood's Gulch would have to be severely park-adjusted.
   13. zack Posted: November 29, 2012 at 11:12 AM (#4312244)

With or without Marvin Miller salaries were going to rise and ballplayers were going to make a lot of money.


That's true, because the players were so vastly underpaid that salaries could increase by an order of magnitude without denting the owners' profits. It's hard to imagine anyone doing it better or faster than Miller though, and the death of the reserve clause wasn't quite as inevitable as higher salaries.
   14. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: November 29, 2012 at 11:27 AM (#4312266)
The argument that salary increase would have happened with or without Miller doesn't make a lot of sense to me. It might have happened without Miller in an alternate universe (although maybe not to the same extent or as quickly), but the fact is that Miller was the prime mover behind the change that actually did happen, and he deserves a lot of credit for that. It's the history makes the man argument taken to an extreme. Should we downgrade Lincoln's accomplishments because slavery would have ended at some point with or without him?
   15. AROM Posted: November 29, 2012 at 11:31 AM (#4312272)
Right now players get 55% of the sport's revenue. By comparison, were the top players really that underpaid before free agency? I'm not knocking Miller, just curious. Even if the percent take has not changed at all the right to choose where you want to play instead of being tied to a team for life is an important victory.

looking at team values, I know the Yankees were purchased for 12 million by the boss in the early 70's. A top player made 100,000. So the top team was worth 120 times the annual salary of a top player.

This ratio is the same if you go to 25 million for a top player and 3 billion for the richest franchise. Given that the Dodgers sold for 2 billion, 3 billion is probably a conservative guess for what the Yankees could fetch.
   16. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 29, 2012 at 12:14 PM (#4312334)
The difference between the MLBPA and typical unions is that the MLBPA is more geared towards having workers be valued by the market. Is there something like free agency with typical unions? Granted a very good plant manager or teacher is nevertheless quite replaceable unlike with Albert Pujols, but that also makes the point that the MLBPA is unlike most unions.

In fairness, the scrubs will make the major league minimum, which is likely more than the market value of some of those players. So at the bottom end workers' salaries can be artificially increased, but most players get screwed over by the system in the first few years, until they start reaching arbitration and free agency - and even arbitration suppresses their salaries.
   17. AROM Posted: November 29, 2012 at 12:32 PM (#4312362)
Is there something like free agency with typical unions?


Yes, the members can quit and take any other job offered any time they want. Well, baseball players can too in the sense that Vernon Wells doesn't have to sit on the bench for 20 million, he could quit and work as a port-a-potty cleaner if he wanted to.

But within an industry, let's say the Auto Industry. A worker doesn't like his job at Ford. He gets an offer from Chrysler. In both cases, his wage would be collectively bargained by the union(s), but he has that freedom of movement from day 1 that ballplayers don't have until after 6 seasons.
   18. Dr. Vaux Posted: November 29, 2012 at 12:41 PM (#4312374)
Granted a very good plant manager or teacher is nevertheless quite replaceable unlike with Albert Pujols


There's 30 regular first basemen in MLB, and after Pujols, at least 5 are probably basically interchangeable given unpredictable season-to-season fluctuation. Then the next 5 are clearly below but also roughly interchangeable, etc. There are a lot more plants and classrooms than baseball teams, so it seems possible that even though there are also more excellent plant managers or teachers than excellent first basemen, the ratios are similar. What most likely isn't similar is the impact that a truly great one can have above a merely acceptable one. There aren't wins and losses in most businesses. If baseball worked like other businesses, Adam LaRoche wouldn't be a noticeably worse first baseman than Albert Pujols. LaRoche's team was hugely profitable with him as the first baseman, and Pujols's team was hugely profitable with him as the first baseman. There would be no reason to replace LaRoche, and no way to know or reason to think that replacing him with Pujols would lead to any advantage. There would also be no reason to balk at replacing LaRoche with Pujols, or Pujols with LaRoche.
   19. Bug Selig Posted: November 29, 2012 at 12:55 PM (#4312392)
That is stupid and false.


Want names?

It is absolutely stupid but it isn't the least bit false.
   20. McCoy Posted: November 29, 2012 at 12:56 PM (#4312393)
but the fact is that Miller was the prime mover behind the change that actually did happen

The prime mover of all things is money. When the teams had more revenue they spent more. Marvin Miller worked hard and he and the union fought a hard fight to get what they wanted but salaries were going to go up with or without him. Salaries were shooting up before the reserve clause got altered*. In terms of contracts, Miller by helping to create free agency did help create long term contract. So yeah, ARod wouldn't have gotten a 10 year bazillion dollar contract without the union fighting the fight but it isn't like the ownders wouldn't have pocketed that money. Instead ARod would get paid 20 to 30 million a year when the owner thinks he is worth it and then when he isn't worth it and he thinks he can get him to sign for less he gives somebody else the millions he isn't paying ARod.

If the owners don't give the players boatloads of cash then the players go somewhere else. That is how we got the American League and Federal League and how we would get another league if salaries didn't rise.

*Altered not killed. The reserve clause did not get killed.
   21. The Good Face Posted: November 29, 2012 at 12:59 PM (#4312399)
There aren't wins and losses in most businesses. If baseball worked like other businesses, Adam LaRoche wouldn't be a noticeably worse first baseman than Albert Pujols. LaRoche's team was hugely profitable with him as the first baseman, and Pujols's team was hugely profitable with him as the first baseman. There would be no reason to replace LaRoche, and no way to know or reason to think that replacing him with Pujols would lead to any advantage. There would also be no reason to balk at replacing LaRoche with Pujols, or Pujols with LaRoche.


The causation is off. Wins and losses are what create the huge profits by generating fan interest. If baseball was an exhibition played without keeping score or statistics and without wins or losses, it wouldn't be nearly as popular, and thus profitable.

Anyway, I don't think comparing baseball players to other unions is particularly meaningful or interestign because we're dealing with nothing but outliers and unique entities.
   22. pep21 Posted: November 29, 2012 at 01:02 PM (#4312403)
Its called CAPITALISM!

You provided a service and depending on the demand you are compensated according to the going rate. If owners are too STUPID to understand the concept of bidding against each other then that's their fault. The only one who realized what Marvin Miller was Charlie Finley when he wanted all players to be declared free agents and then the market would be over-saturated with players and in essence drive the price of the market downward.

I get a kick when people want to throw out a salary cap in a way to reduce salaries, however, look at the NHL, their are going through a second lock out because their owners are too STUPID to maintain fiscal restraint. And how is a salary cap not socialism? If owners themselves want to fork over money to teams like the Pirates, Royals, Rays and others in revenue sharing thats thier prerogative.

If players are making a boatloads of cash then owners are probably making 10x that amount or else they would be going out of business. Not one owner has ever offered to open their books to see in fact if they are losing money. A player is not going to turn down what they are being offered to play.

I remember listening to Buck O'Neil, the great Negro League player, when asked if they played for the love of the game in his era and he said that it was the money. Its always been about the money. Babe Ruth, Dimaggio, Koufax and countless other held out for more money before collective bargaining and free agency.


RIP Marvin.
   23. Random Transaction Generator Posted: November 29, 2012 at 01:11 PM (#4312419)
Wins and losses are what create the huge profits by generating fan interest.


Not necessarily...
   24. bachslunch Posted: November 29, 2012 at 01:26 PM (#4312435)
The difference between the MLBPA and typical unions is that the MLBPA is more geared towards having workers be valued by the market.

Fair argument. Most unions I know of concern themselves heavily with such useful things as job security/seniority, handling grievances, and such as well as salary/benefits issues. I doubt things like seniority consideration for layoffs is relevant for MLB players.
   25. Gaelan Posted: November 29, 2012 at 01:29 PM (#4312441)
Yeah, Miller's a miracle worker. It's not like there are any other examples where unionized labor led to a grossly overpaid workforce to the ultimate determent of the industry. Oh wait, that's every example of a unionized workforce.


Crass and ignorant at the same time. Nice.
   26. something like a train wreck Posted: November 29, 2012 at 01:36 PM (#4312449)
This is the most dispiriting thread I've read in many years on this site.
   27. GregD Posted: November 29, 2012 at 01:42 PM (#4312453)
Does anyone know the ratio salaries to revenues pre-Miller? That would be very interesting. My guess is that he moved the needle toward the ballplayers but I'd be curious to find out if that's right.

The Union has been successful at fighting collusion, though I don't think collusion could really work in a period where the Yankees were unleashed.

Certainly as I think Ray said the Union has helped the guys who are 18th-25th on the roster as minimum salaries and lifetime pension/health care mean that guys who play 6 years in the big leagues have a very different life than their past equivalents.
   28. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: November 29, 2012 at 01:52 PM (#4312469)
This is the most dispiriting thread I've read in many years on this site.

Agreed.
   29. Gotham Dave Posted: November 29, 2012 at 01:56 PM (#4312473)
Considering that James resisted the urge to get all right-wing-axe-grindy (despite a surprisingly flippant tone) I wish it could’ve taken this site more than one post to do it.
   30. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: November 29, 2012 at 02:01 PM (#4312476)
Miller's legacy isn't just about money. The Flood case started because he didn't want to play for the phillies, and felt that baseball teams shouldn't have the right to control a player's entire career. That's an incredibly important point. Why should ARod have to play for the Mariners for his entire career just because he was drafted by them? Flood himself made this clear: "A well-paid slave is, nonetheless, still a slave."

The current system of giving a team six years of control is far from perfect, but it does a pretty good job of balancing the players' rights and the need for competitive balance.
   31. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 29, 2012 at 02:04 PM (#4312480)
The thing is that with the current system the owners get the ability to suppress a player's salary for 6 years into his career, which will likely be the most productive years of the player's career. Players like Pujols and David Wright were paid peanuts earlier in their careers as their organizations were raking in revenue from them. What did the Angels pay Trout this year? The owners make out in a major way, overall.
   32. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: November 29, 2012 at 02:05 PM (#4312482)
Certainly as I think Ray said the Union has helped the guys who are 18th-25th on the roster as minimum salaries and lifetime pension/health care mean that guys who play 6 years in the big leagues have a very different life than their past equivalents.

This is the problem that the "libertarians" here have with the MLBPA. Those guys are theoretically replaceable, therefore they shouldn't be making any money at all. Instead of Kyle Kendrick making 5% of what Roy Halladay makes, he should be making 0.1%. Virtually nobody should make any money unless they are investors or are literally one of the best few people in the world at doing something that people happen to be willing to pay for. Anyone else would not have any "bargaining power" in a real "free market", therefore they should not have any bargaining power, therefore they should not have any money.

[edited to not put words in the mouth of anyone in particular]
   33. BDC Posted: November 29, 2012 at 02:12 PM (#4312492)
The difference between the MLBPA and typical unions is that the MLBPA is more geared towards having workers be valued by the market. Is there something like free agency with typical unions? Granted a very good plant manager or teacher is nevertheless quite replaceable unlike with Albert Pujols, but that also makes the point that the MLBPA is unlike most unions

A good deal of the early union thinking in baseball was driven by strongly meritocratic concerns; to the extent that unions in other industries do value security and predictability over naked meritocracy, the MLBPA really was (and continues to be) different. For example, one grievance early on was that the reserve clause allowed teams to stockpile talent. You could be a bench player for the Yankees or Dodgers (or whatever team was currently strong); you knew you were better than a regular for Houston or Kansas City; yet you wouldn't get your shot (and the consequent chance at a higher salary) because you had no freedom of movement. Ballplayers hate getting old and getting replaced, but they accept that as force majeure. What they absolutely detest is getting buried somewhere, unable to prove themselves at all.
   34. Ron J2 Posted: November 29, 2012 at 02:43 PM (#4312547)
The owners make out in a major way, overall.


Zimbalist's study could stand to be redone, but I don't think things have changed all that much.

What Zimbalist found is that players with no arbitration rights were very profitable. They generated roughly 4.8 times their salary in revenue.

Players with arbitration rights were (again as a group) worth roughly 1.8 times what they made.

And the guys with free agent rights were worth about 80% of what they make,

I don't know how this all works out for ownership, but it seems likely that you are correct -- that the system keeps overall wages down (somewhat). And distorts the distribution in favor of veteran players.

The players are basically fine with it because they "know" they're just a few years away from making life changing money.

Not sure what percentage of players makes it to arbitration (and whether this is changing). Should check.
   35. GregD Posted: November 29, 2012 at 02:58 PM (#4312580)
The thing is that with the current system the owners get the ability to suppress a player's salary for 6 years into his career, which will likely be the most productive years of the player's career. Players like Pujols and David Wright were paid peanuts earlier in their careers as their organizations were raking in revenue from them. What did the Angels pay Trout this year? The owners make out in a major way, overall.
The guys who really get hammered are guys who are great for years 1-3, say, then, get hurt. Those guys are screwed, and their earnings essentially subsidize the pay and benefits of the utility men and the profits of the owners. (Though I'm curious if a different system would actually change the percentage that goes to salaries or just redistribute it. If it's the latter, then owners shouldn't care.)

Albert Pujols did great. If you get to free agency, the system gives you a limited number of competitors when you are in your prime, and you cash in. On the whole Pujols will probably end up making what he was worth or maybe even slightly more.

But this system is no help at all to the Mark Fidrychs of the world.

I would not, though, expect any union to care about this since the guys who will be rookies two years from now by definition are not in the union. This is why the NBA union was willing to sell out the rookies with the rookie salary cap. If the total salary expenses are set, why not gear it to the people in the union already, i.e. the veterans.
   36. Rough Carrigan Posted: November 29, 2012 at 03:17 PM (#4312605)
#27. I don't know if anybody can give you really solid numbers but I read this story a couple times.

After the first season in Dodger Stadium, in 1962, the Dodgers got into some kind of legal fight with a company somehow involved with their parking lots. As a result of the legal fight, the Dodgers ended up disclosing that they had made a $5 million profit in 1962. At the same time, they were trying to stiff Don Drysdale out of a raise he wanted, something like $25,000 more per year after he won the Cy Young award that year.
   37. Bhaakon Posted: November 29, 2012 at 03:54 PM (#4312629)
The guys who really get hammered are guys who are great for years 1-3, say, then, get hurt. Those guys are screwed, and their earnings essentially subsidize the pay and benefits of the utility men and the profits of the owners. (Though I'm curious if a different system would actually change the percentage that goes to salaries or just redistribute it. If it's the latter, then owners shouldn't care.)


Their performance subsidizes the hundreds or thousands of prospects who never panned out for every major leaguer who did. Minor leaguers may be underpaid, but player development is still a huge expense. Every draft is an expensive gamble, there has to be some payoff.
   38. GregD Posted: November 29, 2012 at 04:25 PM (#4312657)
I'm not saying it's inherently unfair; I'm just saying those are the guys whose excess value gets squeezed.

The question of paying for development is different. That's about what you do with the excess value, not where it comes from.

You could set up a system where everyone is a free agent after year 1 but there is no minimum salary and end up with wild variance in salaries but the same total percentage spent on salaries and the same money left over for development (though you wouldn't care about development under that system.)
   39. Bhaakon Posted: November 29, 2012 at 04:33 PM (#4312669)
You could set up a system where everyone is a free agent after year 1 but there is no minimum salary and end up with wild variance in salaries but the same total percentage spent on salaries and the same money left over for development (though you wouldn't care about development under that system.)


You'd have to get the MLBPA to agree to a hard cap to get that, so good luck. It would also undermine the balancing effects of the pre-FA years and essentially turn half the league in minor league feeders for the biggest spenders.
   40. valuearbitrageur Posted: November 29, 2012 at 06:25 PM (#4312799)
This is the problem that the "libertarians" here have with the MLBPA. Those guys are theoretically replaceable, therefore they shouldn't be making any money at all. Instead of Kyle Kendrick making 5% of what Roy Halladay makes, he should be making 0.1%. Virtually nobody should make any money unless they are investors or are literally one of the best few people in the world at doing something that people happen to be willing to pay for. Anyone else would not have any "bargaining power" in a real "free market", therefore they should not have any bargaining power, therefore they should not have any money.


Win any argument by totally mischaracterizing the other sides views! Libertarians believe that markets work for everyone, because they yield participants the value of their contributions.

As a libertarian, despite my great distaste for most labor monopolies, I have nothing but love for Marvin Miller, and respect for the players labor union. Their accomplishments are not just about money, it's also about personal rights and freedoms, the right to work where and for who you choose.

The MLB and its teams never represented capitalism or free enterprise, they are nothing but mercantilists, politically connected profiteers using their influence to game the nations laws for special privileges to allow them to limit their employees freedoms, and sucking up public monies to finance those economic black holes they call teams.
   41. Matt Welch Posted: November 29, 2012 at 07:00 PM (#4312829)
This is the problem that the "libertarians" here have with the MLBPA.

I won't speak for the "libertarians" on this site, but I do edit a libertarian magazine for a living (where I wrote a positive obit for Miller) and have generally encountered quite a bit of admiration for Miller and his work for the MLBPA.
   42. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: November 29, 2012 at 07:22 PM (#4312845)
Win any argument by totally mischaracterizing the other sides views! Libertarians believe that markets work for everyone, because they yield participants the value of their contributions.

In terms of the "market" for labor most people are unable to make any contributions that could not also be made by millions of other people. Most people have no bargaining power at any given time, and among those who do, our skills could easily go from useful to useless. Some believe these people should get paid as if we had the bargaining power we don't actually have. If you don't believe in a minimum wage or a government safety net making it less than ruinous for someone to quit their job, you believe in mass poverty which would theoretically be remediated by voluntary charitable contributions.

As for the MLBPA it's an outlier as labor unions go, because a lot of its members are not replaceable by anyone else on earth no matter how much training the scabs would get, and because it's negotiating with a cartel that has a near-monopoly on desirable jobs.
   43. Sunday silence Posted: November 30, 2012 at 02:49 AM (#4313111)
"A well-paid slave is, nonetheless, still a slave."


If you want to cite something stupid and false here's another. There's nothing keeping baseball players from leaving the game and finding other work. And just because there arent rival leagues to jump to doesnt make them slaves either.

That lack of freedom was faced by slaves. These guys arent slaves and the analogy is way off. I could say the analogy is insulting to slaves, but since that institution ended over a hundred years ago perhaps most people will brush it off.

As for Miller's HoF credentials, I just find it crass if the reason he's up there is for the pecuniary interests of the players. The same feeling goes for any other executives in the HoF, obviously guys like Branch Rickey are not there for pecuniary reasons so I guess that's sort of OK. I would like to see the HoF based soley on on field achievements.

If Miller is a HoF'er based on the free agency thing, than I dont get all misty eyed about it either. I think you have to be in love with labor unions or somethign to have any feelings at all for Miller, but your mileage may vary.
   44. The Yankee Clapper Posted: November 30, 2012 at 03:13 AM (#4313115)
These guys arent slaves and the analogy is way off.

Name another American industry that was allowed to refuse to permit labor to move from one employer to another after the 13th Amendment? Anti-trust laws also made such restrictions against the law. Ballplayers weren't treated as badly as chattel slaves, of course, but that doesn't make the analogy that far off. What possible basis is there for carving out an exception to basic American Law just to benefit the owners of of baseball teams or other professional sports teams?
   45. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: November 30, 2012 at 03:33 AM (#4313116)
As for the MLBPA it's an outlier as labor unions go, because a lot of its members are not replaceable by anyone else on earth no matter how much training the scabs would get, and because it's negotiating with a cartel that has a near-monopoly on desirable jobs.


I think that's overstated to an enormous degree. How big an across-the-board decrease in talent would be required until the game wasn't fun to watch? If every pitcher in the league lost 5MPH off their fastball overnight would anyone even notice without the radar reading? the PR issue would be a much bigger problem than the talent issue, IMO.
   46. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: November 30, 2012 at 04:08 AM (#4313122)
Yeah, Miller's a miracle worker. It's not like there are any other examples where unionized labor led to a grossly overpaid workforce to the ultimate determent of the industry. Oh wait, that's every example of a unionized workforce.
Underneath the swollen rhetoric this post merely claims that unionized labor means an industry's owners make less than they do with nonunionized labor. Let's shed a tear for the poor bosses? Oh, and "the industry" doesn't include the people who labor in it? Got it.

Anyone else would not have any "bargaining power" in a real "free market", therefore they should not have any bargaining power, therefore they should not have any money.
So, 'free' market theory asserts that in a true state of nature, unions don't exist? That collective bargaining is somehow a contrivance beyond the pale, but everything else about a corporation, say, negotiating with an individual is as natural as snowflakes?

That lack of freedom was faced by slaves. These guys arent slaves and the analogy is way off. I could say the analogy is insulting to slaves, but since that institution ended over a hundred years ago perhaps most people will brush it off.
Yeah, there's something grotesque about Flood's comparison.

Name another American industry that was allowed to refuse to permit labor to move from one employer to another after the 13th Amendment?
That the vast majority of workers can migrate from Staples to Walmart to Best Buy makes the ability of wage slaves to move from one employer to another a distinction with very little difference.

@45: I can't speak for anyone else here, but for me to enjoy watching a ballgame, the players have to be good, and they have to be trying to win. They don't have to be the best, or even particularly close to it. For a variety of reasons, when it comes to attending games I prefer A ball to MLB.
   47. Long Time Listener, First Time Caller Posted: November 30, 2012 at 10:50 AM (#4313222)
That the vast majority of workers can migrate from Staples to Walmart to Best Buy makes the ability of wage slaves to move from one employer to another a distinction with very little difference.


No. It's a pretty significant difference. It's not a matter of wage scale. Would you really argue against the idea that if you work for Walmart in, say, New Hampshire, and they want to make you work at a Walmart in New Mexico that you have the right to quit the job and go work for Staples? This is what Curt Flood was campaigning against, and the counter that he could totally abandon his career and start an entirely new one doesn't wash.

Would you tell a guy working as an accountant that if he doesn't like working at PWC he should just become a car salesman even if Deloitte would love to have him come work for them?

He probably shouldn't have compared his plight to slavery, but that's the way it goes sometimes with people whose emotions are high and aren't public rhetoricians by trade
   48. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: November 30, 2012 at 12:38 PM (#4313362)
This is what Curt Flood was campaigning against, and the counter that he could totally abandon his career and start an entirely new one doesn't wash.
Well, that's not an argument I was making, so I imagine we'd be talking past each other.

My point was, and is,

That the vast majority of workers can migrate from Staples to Walmart to Best Buy makes the ability of wage slaves to move from one employer to another a distinction with very little difference.


The ability to change employees for millions and millions of people is largely meaningless when it's only exchanging one #### sandwich for another.
   49. McCoy Posted: November 30, 2012 at 01:10 PM (#4313398)
If a major league ballplayer doesn't want to play for the Phillies he can, once his mutually agreed upon contract runs out go play for the AC Surf or the St. Paul Saints. He can go teach baseball in high school in college. He can work for Wal-Mart or GM or McDonalds. He can do nothing or he can do something. A ballplayer is not even close to being a slave.
   50. Sunday silence Posted: November 30, 2012 at 01:59 PM (#4313455)
if you want to find an analogy, Flood is closer to someone who signed a non compete clause. Which are legal to a certain degree, they cant be all encompassing the last time I studied this along time ago but they are legal.

Of course non compete clauses are signed off on by both parties. And of course Flood signed an agreement with a reserve clause in it. That he did of his own free will, no one forced him to play MLB and so he's vastly different than a slave.

WHen Flood didnt want to go to the Phillies, he simply quit/retired. What slave can do that? THis comparison to slavery is bizarre.
   51. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: November 30, 2012 at 02:23 PM (#4313481)
"A well-paid slave is, nonetheless, still a slave."


Signed, The Artist Formerly (and Futurely) Known as Prince

   52. The Yankee Clapper Posted: November 30, 2012 at 03:48 PM (#4313571)
Flood is closer to someone who signed a non compete clause. Which are legal to a certain degree, they cant be all encompassing the last time I studied this along time ago but they are legal.

Agreements not to compete are generally only upheld in rather narrow circumstances - with limits on the type of position as well as the temporal and geographic scope. MLB is unlikely to meet the criteria in most states, but if the crack MLB lawyers think they can, let them raise it in the next round of CBA negotiations. The fact that MLB has never gone that route may suggest that even they don't think it is a viable theory.
   53. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: November 30, 2012 at 05:33 PM (#4313691)
The Detroit area is full of people who make six figures for doing jobs any high school graduate could learn in an hour.

If that sort of thing outrages you, welcome to Washington, home of tens of thousands of hired corporate guns who make that much and more.

-----------------------------------------------------

Does anyone know the ratio salaries to revenues pre-Miller? That would be very interesting. My guess is that he moved the needle toward the ballplayers but I'd be curious to find out if that's right.

Just to take one of many examples from the 1951 Celler Monopoly Subcommitee hearings (p. 1520), in 1950 the combined operating income for all 16 Major League clubs was $31,665,000. This included gate receipts, radio / TV revenue, concessions, and stadium rentals to football teams, etc.

In that same year, player salaries and pension fund contributions combined were $6,246.00. Doing the math, that means that salaries and pensions were 19.7% of total revenue.

In 2012 dollars, the corresponding numbers would be about $10 million per club in revenue, and $2 million per club in player salaries + pension contributions. Welcome to The Good Old Days.

BTW that series of Celler Subcommittee hearings remains the best primary source for baseball finances in the reserve clause era. I'm surprised that someone hasn't made them available online, although for all I know they may have by this time.
   54. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: November 30, 2012 at 05:39 PM (#4313701)
There are basically three reasons why Marvin Miller was able to transform major league baseball players from moderately well-paid young men into athletic Vanderbilts being paid, in some cases, about $30,000 per at-bat, or $100,000 an inning.


I remember reading at some point during his career that Stan Musial was making about $550 a game, which is about $5300 a game in today's dollars, or about $589 per inning. Yeah, I can see why the Lords of Baseball don't want Marvin Miller in the Hall of Fame.
   55. smileyy Posted: November 30, 2012 at 06:38 PM (#4313767)
OTOH, there's no worries about "big market" and "small market" when nobody is paying anybody *($# anyway.
   56. AROM Posted: November 30, 2012 at 06:56 PM (#4313777)
Thanks Andy. Never heard of the Celler subcom. Are you getting that from a book?

That suggests that free agency has tripled player's take of the revenue.
   57. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: November 30, 2012 at 07:39 PM (#4313797)
Yeah, Miller's a miracle worker. It's not like there are any other examples where unionized labor led to a grossly overpaid workforce to the ultimate determent of the industry. Oh wait, that's every example of a unionized workforce.



Crass and ignorant at the same time. Nice.


Thanks Gaelan!

Considering that James resisted the urge to get all right-wing-axe-grindy (despite a surprisingly flippant tone) I wish it could’ve taken this site more than one post to do it.

The right wing stuff is fun, I never get accused of that. The point was that it's not really a great accomplishment to have union members be overcompensated, every union leads to that. The Miller worship is nauseating, the HOF talk is comical.
   58. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: November 30, 2012 at 07:53 PM (#4313807)
How unjust to be "accused" of "right wing stuff" when all you're saying is that labor unions are by definition bad. Go move to Honduras.
   59. Nasty Nate Posted: November 30, 2012 at 07:56 PM (#4313812)
The point was that it's not really a great accomplishment to have union members be overcompensated, every union leads to that.


When you just arbitrarily declare players to be "grossly overpaid" and "overcompensated," without a hint of why baseball salaries are detrimental to the industry, you sound like someone giving a knee-jerk cliche: "people shouldn't be paid millions to play a game, it is just wrong."

Also, posts #5 and #7 raise some interesting questions regarding the detriment to the industry:

I don't know why I should [value] an abstract "industry" over actual people and actual workers. (Especially since by "industry" I'm pretty sure you mean "the owners of the particular firms within the industry".


Funny; as a customer of the industry, I find modern baseball to be great. It's also super-profitable for owner and employee alike
   60. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: November 30, 2012 at 08:09 PM (#4313816)
Thanks Andy. Never heard of the Celler subcom. Are you getting that from a book?

Yeah, I've got pretty much all the transcripts and reports from congressional monopoly hearings from 1951 through 1976, though the great bulk of them are from the early and then late 1950's. Besides all those financial statements, they contain testimony from everyone involved in the game from players to owners and then some, most famously from Casey Stengel and Mickey Mantle. I got them from a woman in Virginia whose 95 year old brother had passed away, and left her an amazing baseball collection, including multiple runs of the Putnam team history series with about 10 copies of Povich's book on the Senators. Too bad I couldn't have had more buys like that.

That suggests that free agency has tripled player's take of the revenue.

Sounds about right. Goddam Randian Commie just ruined the game, didn't he?
   61. DJS and the Infinite Sadness Posted: November 30, 2012 at 11:21 PM (#4313875)
The point was that it's not really a great accomplishment to have union members be overcompensated, every union leads to that.

How exactly are players overcompensated? Above league minimum, which is peanuts, every dollar given from a team to a player is voluntary.
   62. AROM Posted: December 01, 2012 at 02:26 AM (#4313933)
Sounds about right. Goddam Randian Commie just ruined the game, didn't he?


To continue my Atlas Shrugged baseball analogy from #12, Imagine in the years between Curt Flood's strike and the implementation of free agency, the best players played somewhere nobody would watch them, under the true capitalist/Hank Reardon/Dagny Taggart type of owner. The type of owner who would be despised by the moochers and mercantilists in that class, and say things like "Let them all be free agents"

Sounds like Oakland to me.
   63. Gaelan Posted: December 01, 2012 at 04:53 AM (#4313949)
As a hockey fan, I can't stop thinking about how good baseball has it. It is far and away the best run league and the reason it is the best run league is because Marvin Miller and Don Fehr forced them to be a well run league by removing the irrational and unjust privileges of the owners. It's evolved into a near perfect system in which almost everyone wins.
   64. Sunday silence Posted: December 01, 2012 at 06:52 AM (#4313960)
As a hockey fan, I can't stop thinking about how good baseball has it. It is far and away the best run league and the reason it is the best run league is because Marvin Miller and Don Fehr forced them to be a well run league by removing the irrational and unjust privileges of the owners. It's evolved into a near perfect system in which almost everyone wins


Pittsburgh and Kansas City say "Hello."
   65. Sunday silence Posted: December 01, 2012 at 06:58 AM (#4313961)
Yeah, I can see why the Lords of Baseball don't want Marvin Miller in the Hall of Fame.


I dont get this. It's being voted on by an old timers committee, no?
   66. Lassus Posted: December 01, 2012 at 08:42 AM (#4313965)
Pittsburgh and Kansas City say "Hello."

Barring a league where everyone wins, I don't see how this criticism answers what Gaelan wrote.
   67. phredbird Posted: December 01, 2012 at 12:58 PM (#4314038)
what 66 said.

pittsburgh and kansas city franchises are making lots of money for the owners, and the worst player on those teams is still making roughly 10x the average american salary for playing a sport they are insanely good at. i wish i could be so miserable.

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