Marvin Miller, 79, legendary executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association from 1966 to '83, believes that the union, after having to contend with bad-faith negotiating, ended up surrendering too much in the collective bargaining agreement that owners approved on Nov. 26 because the union consented to provisions that limit salaries and, in effect, make the players partners in collusion. Miller feels that by doing this, the players betrayed future major leaguers. He also thinks many conceptions about the labor strife were distorted by myth.
Myth 1: Negotiations would have moved faster under a real commissioner. It's amazing how the myth of the strong commissioner has survived. The commissioner is employed by the owners, who hire him and can fire him.
Myth 2: The owners were deceitful, dishonest negotiators. No, they were worse than that. In hopes of derailing any agreement, the hard-liners changed the rules in 1994 so that passage of any deal required approval by three fourths (as opposed to a simple majority) of the owners. If such a requirement, previously unheard of in collective bargaining, applied to all elections, we would never elect a president.
Myth 3: Any salary cap would have satisfied the owners. Given the owners' professed ardor for a cap, Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who as owner of the Chicago Bulls is quite familiar with the NBA's loophole-riddled cap, should have been confronted with an offer to accept the cap as it works in basketball. Given that NBA salaries have soared so high they make baseball salaries look trivial, I guarantee he would have said no.
Myth 4: Both sides have learned from this fiasco, and we won't see a repeat when the deal expires in 2001. I would have thought the owners had learned from the 1972 strike, or the failed '76 lockout, or their losses in the '81 strike. But teams change owners, and new owners listen to the Bud Seligs, who say, "If we stick together, we can beat the union." I think of the philosopher Santayana, who said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."