Marvin Miller died recently and he was a great figure in baseball history for securing and preserving players’ rights and making possible their current compensation. Before him, salaries averaged about $12,000. Today they average over $3 million. Players in major professional sports in America, not just baseball, owe him a profound debt of gratitude (that he didn’t see from younger players, but isn’t that always the case?). He certainly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. But near the end of his life he lost perspective on the drug issue in baseball.
After Alex Rodriguez admitted he took performance enhancing drugs, Miller questioned why records of steroid testing weren’t destroyed. He strongly believed there was no basis for preserving those records and said he never would have agreed to drug testing for players in the union.
Drug use threatens the long-term health of players, drives a wedge between those who would use drugs and those who choose not to, and undermines the credibility of the the entire profession. Yet with his adamant position against drug testing, Miller tacitly condoned drug use by players, a stance that is ultimately inimical to the best interests of the members of his union. The drug problem in baseball suggests sadly, in the end, time may have passed Marvin Miller by.
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