Marvin Miller

Marvin Miller: 1917-2012

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Marvin Miller, the legendary leader of the Major League Baseball Player’s Association, has died at age 95.  No word on the exact cause of death, but he had been ill for some time.

It is impossible to overstate Miller’s impact on Major League Baseball. While some — including Hall of Fame voters — have long given Miller short shrift (or piled on utter disdain), baseball today cannot be understood without understanding Marvin Miller’s contributions. He was a truly transformative figure who, after Jackie Robinson, did more to correct the excesses and injustices delivered onto players by baseball’s ruling class than anyone.

When Miller took over as the head of the MLBPA in 1966 there was no free agency. Players were told by ownership what they would make the following year and if they didn’t like it, tough. They couldn’t switch teams. They couldn’t do what any other worker can do and shop their services elsewhere. They were stuck thanks to baseball’s reserve clause and the ridiculous Supreme Court decision which exempted baseball and its owners from the antitrust laws.

Miller took all of that on and he won. He started small, negotiating the union’s first collective bargaining agreement with the team owners in 1968, which raised the game’s minimum salary from $6,000 to $10,000. In 1970 he got the owners to agree to arbitration for the first time. In 1970 Curt Flood, with Miller’s support and guidance, challenged baseball’s antitrust exemption — and the dreaded reserve clause, which kept players tied to one team against their wishes — in the courts. Flood ultimately lost that case in the landmark 1972 Supreme Court decision. The decision did not, however, blunt Miller’s resolve, and he took his fight to other forums.

In 1974 he exploited a loophole — and an oversight by Oakland Athletics owner Charlie O. Finley — to get Catfish Hunter free agency and baseball’s first $1 million contract.  Up next: the whole enchilada. In 1974, he got Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally to play out the season without contracts, placing them in cross-hairs of the reserve clause and giving them standing to fight the provision in arbitration. In 1975 they won, with the Seitz Decision ushering in the age of free agency. Baseball players’ indentured servitude was over.

In all Miller led the union through three work stoppages: two short ones — 1972 and in spring training 1980 — and then the long, season-altering strike in 1981.  In all three stoppages, the union prevailed. Overall during his tenure the average players’ salary rose from $19,000 to $241,000 a year and their working conditions improved dramatically. It is no understatement to say that Miller turned the MLBPA into the most effective and successful labor union in the United States. Not just in sports: in the entire United States.

Miller, however, paid a cost for these victories, being snubbed repeatedly in Hall of Fame voting.  Baseball’s executives — who played a part in his voting — resented him. Some players on the Veteran’s Committee who came before the era of free agency did as well.  Miller never helped his own case, of course — he was at terms feisty, abrasive and mostly dismissive of the Hall of Fame and his own candidacy for it — but the fact remains that his exclusion is a travesty. This is especially true given that so many executives and owners who did so much to harm players’ well-being through greed, racism and other vile impulses have been welcomed in to Cooperstown with open arms.

But whether he ever makes the Hall of Fame or not, baseball would not be what it is today, both as a business and a game, without Marvin Miller. Indeed, you can count the people who have made as great or greater a contribution than Miller to the context in which the game is played on one hand. In this regard his legacy is inviolate.

RIP Marvin Miller. The game will never see his like again.

Justin Verlander and Kate Upton are engaged

Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, left, and model Kate Upton pose for a photograph during second half NBA All-Star Game basketball action in Toronto on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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Justin Verlander and Kate Upton have been a couple for a long time. And dudes like me have been writing about them for a long time because, well, Justin Verlander and Kate Upton.

They’ve fallen a bit off the radar in recent years thanks to Verlander taking a step back from Cy Young contender status and Upton’s profile likewise receding a bit, but if anything that probably helped things out given how hard it probably is to live a life with paparazzi hovering every time you want to out and get a burger or something.

In any event, those two crazy kids have made it work. Made it work so well that Verlander have Upton a big fat rock that she showed off at last night’s Met Ball, which is a fundraising gala for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Check it out:

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When you’re on a $180 million contract you can afford stuff like that, I guess.

Anyway, it looks like Upton enjoyed the fancy, star-studded gala in New York. I’m sure Verlander had a good time on the Tigers’ off-day in Cleveland. There’s a lot to do in Cleveland if you know where to look.

And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon yells toward Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Kyle Lobstein after Cubs' Ben Zobrist was hit by a pitch in the seventh inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 2, 2016, in Pittsburgh. The Cubs won 7-2. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Cubs 7, Pirates 2: Plunky Brewster. Archie Plunker — no, Archie Plunker’s Place.  Plunkingham Palace. Fran Plunkington. I dunno, but there was plunking here, starting with Jason Hammel hitting Starling Marte to lead off the sixth followed by Kyle Lobstein hitting Ben Zobrist in the seventh. Hard to deny that Hammel hitting Marte wasn’t retaliation for Tony Watson hitting Jake Arrieta in the Wild Card Game last year, though I’m sure everyone denied it. Boys will be boys. Hammel allowed two runs pitching into the sixth and his ERA almost doubled, which tells you how good he’s been in the early going.

Rangers 2, Blue Jays 1: Nomar Mazara won April’s Rookie of the month award yesterday afternoon and several hours later hit a tiebreaking home run in the top of the eighth. Then, in the bottom of the eighth, he threw out a dude at home plate. Not a bad day for the kid. This was also a playoff rematch that had the potential for a plunking. Some think the Rangers still want to hit Jose Bautista for the infamous bat flip last October. Maybe it’ll come later in the series when the game is not as close, but for now the Rangers are probably pretty happy with him going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

Giants 9, Reds 6: Johnny Cueto returned to Cincinnati to pitch in front of his old home crowd. He didn’t pitch well, giving up six runs in five innings, but you have a bit of a margin for error against this Reds teams. The Giants bats supplied the margin, rattling out 14 hits, including Brandon Crawford‘s three-run homer in the seventh to put the Reds ahead. He added a fourth RBI in the ninth for some insurance.

Mets 4, Braves 1: Mike Foltynewicz got called up yesterday to make his first big league start of the year. He was greeted by a four-run first inning. Gwinnett County is in the same time zone as New York so you can’t blame jet lag, but maybe he got some bad shortbread cookies on the flight or something. Or maybe, based on the fact that he sucked in 15 starts last year, he’s simply not that great. Maybe if these are the 1988 Braves all over again, as I’ve hoped and suspected, he’s our Kevin Coffman: the guy purported to have great stuff and a great future who just got eaten alive by big league pitching before disappearing into witness protection. Meanwhile, Bartolo Colon — who is way closer in age to Kevin Coffman than Mike Foltynewicz — tossed eight shutout innings.

Brewers 8, Angels 5: Jimmy Nelson had two hits including a go-ahead RBI single. He also allowed only two runs over seven innings and got the win. The Brewers got their runs in bunches, with four in the fifth and four in the sixth.

Twins 6, Astros 2: The Twins, who started the season with a notable losing streak and are considered to be among the top underachievers of the young season, now have the same record as the Astros who were favored by many to win the AL West and who most have said “it’s OK, they’ll come around.” And it’s not because the Twins have turned into world-beaters in the past couple of weeks. I’m not saying it’s time to panic in Houston or anything, but eww. Jose Berrios got his first career win, giving up two runs on three hits with eight strikeouts in five and a third. Much better than his debut.

Nationals 2, Royals 0: Four in a row for the Nats as Gio Gonzalez and the bullpen combine on a five-hit shutout. The Royals have lost six of seven. Three of those losses have been shutouts.

Cardinals 10, Phillies 3: Adam Wainwright provided the game’s biggest highlight with a monster homer. The Cards hit five homers in all. When Wainwright was asked about his homer later he used the term “ducks on the pond” to refer to men on base when he came to bat. Which makes me think that Wainwright is 86 years-old. Seriously, I’m pretty sure he started Game 3 of the 1964 World Series against the Yankees. He was really salty when his manager, Johnny Keane, left St. Louis to take over for Yogi Berra in New York the following year. Everything turned out OK, though.

Mariners 4, Athletics 3Nathan Karns gave up three runs while pitching into the seventh. The M’s won for the fifth straight time in the Coliseum. They may be the only ones who like it there. Not that I can or should slam the place. I’m taking my kids on vacation to California next month and I’m taking them to a game there. I could just as easily take them to a Giants game at AT&T but I sort of want them to see what it was like to go to a ballgame in some weird multi-use place with a better proletariat-to- bourgeoisie ratio like I did in the 70s and 80s.

Padres 2, Rockies 1: Matt Kemp hit a two-run double in the first inning and it held up thanks to James Shields allowing one run over six. Shields has gotten seven runs in support in his six starts this season.

Video: Adam Wainwright crushes a three-run homer into the second deck

St. Louis Cardinals' Adam Wainwright connects for a three-run triple against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the sixth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
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Adam Wainwright has been bringing the lumber lately. The Cardinals’ pitcher delivered a three-run triple in his previous start, last Wednesday, against the Diamondbacks.

During Monday’s start against the Phillies, he doubled to lead off the third inning. Then, in the top of the fourth, he absolutely demolished a Jeremy Hellickson offering for a three-run home run into the second deck at Busch Stadium to tie the game at three apiece.

It’s the seventh home run of Wainwright’s career and brings his season total up to six RBI, matching a career high.

Video: A Delino DeShields base running gaffe costs the Rangers a run

Texas Rangers' Delino DeShields reacts after he struck out swinging to end the tenth inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners, Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Seattle. The Mariners beat the Rangers 4-2 in ten innings. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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The Rangers would’ve easily taken a 2-1 lead in the top of the seventh inning of Monday’s game against the Blue Jays if not for a base running mistake by Delino DeShields.

Facing R.A. Dickey, Mitch Moreland led off the frame with an infield single. He advanced to second base on a passed ball. After Elvis Andrus flied out, Brett Nicholas drew a walk and DeShields singled to right, loading the bases. Gavin Floyd came in to relieve Dickey, facing Rougned Odor.

Odor skied a fly ball to right-center, which seemed like an obvious sacrifice fly. Center fielder Kevin Pillar made the catch and alertly made a strong throw into second base. Moreland tagged up and scored from third, and DeShields was attempting to tag up on the play as well. However, DeShields was tagged out by shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. The play was reviewed and the ruling on the field — that Moreland scored before DeShields was tagged out — was overturned, erasing the run from the board. That left the game in a 1-1 tie.

The Rangers would eventually take a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth when Nomar Mazara drilled a solo home run to center field off of Floyd. All’s well that ends well, right?