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If Marvin Miller can just hang on ...

From the Players Association's press release, obviously composed (or at least signed) by Marvin Miller well before the results were actually announced:

    The Baseball Hall of Fame's vote (or non-vote) of December 5, hardly qualifies as a news story. It is repetitively negative, easy to forecast, and therefore boring.

    --snip--

    A long time ago, it became apparent that the Hall sought to bury me long before my time, as a metaphor for burying the union and eradicating its real influence. Its failure is exemplified by the fact that I and the union of players have received far more support, publicity, and appreciation from countless fans, former players, writers, scholars, experts in labor management relations, than if the Hall had not embarked on its futile and fraudulent attempt to rewrite history. It is an amusing anomaly that the Hall of Fame has made me famous by keeping me out.

I snipped the longest bit of Miller's statement, in which he gives the union credit for post-1962 expansion, along with the massive increases in both player salaries and team revenues. I'm not exactly sure why the union -- and by extension, Miller himself -- deserves credit for MLB having 30 teams instead of 20, because the various rounds of expansion have come mostly because of political pressure and greed. But the rest of it, sure.

I'm not sure if Miller's indictment of the Hall of Fame is completely fair. The people who run the Hall of Fame obviously have some vested interests. They are eager to remain in the good graces of Major League Baseball, and they are eager to see players (as opposed to executives) elected to the Hall, because it's the players who bring the visitors every summer. But the Hall does respond to criticism, and the institution has probably been criticized in recent years for Miller's exclusion as much as anything.

Miller himself certainly hasn't been shy. Three years ago, after picking up just three votes -- and watching Bowie Kuhn get elected -- he said:

    This was done with precision. If you have a set goal in mind, and I think they did, it's not very hard. I'm so able to count votes in advance. Nothing has dimmed with age. No matter how various people involved in the Hall try to put a different gloss on it, it was done primarily to have somebody elected and secondarily to have particular people elected. I don't think this election was about me ... I think it was rigged, but not to keep me out. It was rigged to bring some of these [people] in. It's not a pretty picture. It's demeaning, the whole thing, and I don't mean just to me. It's demeaning to the Hall and demeaning to the people in it.

Was the election rigged to elect Barney Dreyfuss, who got 10 votes? I'm fairly confident in suggesting that the Hall's board of directors didn't throw an office party upon that bit of news. Was the election rigged to elect Bowie Kuhn (10 votes) and Walter O'Malley (nine), but rigged against not only Miller, but also general managers Bob Howsam and Buzzie Bavasi?

I don't know. Maybe. It's probably true that the board of directors doesn't lose a great deal of sleep because of Miller's continuing absence from the Hallowed Halls of the Hall. But it's not like they never gave him a chance. In 2003, the Hall of Fame's procedures for considering "veterans" was completely revamped, with most of the power going to Hall of Fame players (along with living recipients of the Ford C. Frick Award and the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, meaning a group of longtime writers and broadcasters).

Nevertheless, Miller didn't fare well in his first appearance on the ballot under the revamped process. Among the 79 ballots cast, Miller was named on only 35, third among the men on the so-called "composite ballot" (consisting of owners, executives, managers, and one umpire). Miller finished behind umpire Doug Harvey and owner Walter O'Malley, both of whom have subsequently been elected. Miller finished ahead of Dick Williams, Whitey Herzog, and Bowie Kuhn, who have also been subsequently elected.

There wasn't another composite ballot until 2007, and Miller fared better this time, picking up 51 votes, just one behind leader Harvey.

Yes, Miller had failed to gain election, but he wasn't alone. In 2003, 2005 and 2007, players were considered by the Veterans Committee. In 2003 and 2007, the executives, managers, owners, and umpires were considered. That was five elections, resulting in the grand total of ... zero new Hall of Famers. Ron Santo, Jim Kaat, Gil Hodges, Doug Harvey, Marvin Miller ... all drew significant support, but none were actually elected.

Was the process "rigged" against Santo? Was it rigged against Hodges, Harvey and everyone else?

The Hall of Fame's not in business to not elect Hall of Famers. So after going 0-for-5, the Veterans Committee was once again revamped, broken into more specific committees. Subcommittees, if you will. One subcommittee for umpires and managers, and another for executives (the new rules for electing players is too complicated to mention here).

Ah, but who should serve on the subcommittee to consider executives? Other executives, mostly. Seemed like a logical choice, and it's not like Miller had fared particularly well when the players (and the writers and broadcasters) were doing the voting.

Of course, a lot of baseball executives despised Marvin Miller. He got three votes.

And then the Hall did something sort of amazing, something that Marvin Miller seems to have completely missed: The Hall of Fame changed the rules with (I believe) the express idea of electing Marvin Miller to the Hall of Fame.

Well, maybe not. But it was pretty obvious that he wasn't going to be elected if it was mostly executives who were doing the voting.

Yet another ballot was created, this time consisting of managers, umpires, executives and players from Miller's era (loosely defined, he falls under the "Expansion Era," 1973 and later).

According to the Hall of Fame, the voters would include living Hall of Famers, executives, baseball historians, and media members. The one catch is that I can't identify any actual baseball historians among the electorate; they're all Hall of Famers (eight), executives (four) and baseball writers (four). And yes, it's probably true that if you replace one executive with one professional (or serious amateur) baseball historian, Marvin Miller probably gets 12 votes this year rather than 11, and is elected.

But did the Hall of Fame forget to add a historian to the committee in order to deny Miller his rightful place in Cooperstown? I really, really doubt it. I don't think the Hall is that good at counting votes in advance. I think Miller could have been elected this time around. He just wasn't. He needed one more vote.

We assign far too much meaning to tiny percentages. When a politician wins an election with 51 percent of the vote, he claims a mandate while pundits fall all over themselves explaining what this result says about "the mood of the country." When all that really happened was two or three people out of 100 had a slightly different opinion than the last time they voted.

If Marvin Miller had gotten one more vote, his press release would presumably have been completely different. If he'd gotten just one more vote, there would have no outrage from Miller's supporters; instead, there would have been praise for the Hall of Fame's sensible (if tardy) process.

One vote.

The wheels of Cooperstown justice grind slowly, but they do grind, ever onward. It took nearly 60 years, but George Davis eventually got in. Bert Blyleven's going to get in. Ron Santo's going to get in. It might take 60 years, but Tim Raines is going to get in. So will Marvin Miller, someday. If he lives to be 100, he might be around to enjoy it.

Postscript: Now Donald Fehr, Miller's successor with the union, has weighed in, too:

    "Generations of players are already in his debt, as all future players will be. The fact that a few members of the Expansion Era Committee saw fit to continue to deny recognition to the representative of the players -- who are the reason that the Hall exists in the first place -- says more about them than it does about Marvin.

    "This is a sad day for anyone who is or has been a Major League player."

Again, it's worth remembering that when the players had their shot, they also denied recognition to the representative of the players. I'm sure a lot of them did vote for Miller when they had the chance. But the fact is that Miller got a higher percentage of support from this Expansion Era Committee -- thanks, I'm sure, to the players and the writers on the committee -- than he'd ever gotten before.

And it occurs to me that Miller and his supporters won't be satisfied until the Hall of Fame creates a committee that's specifically designed to elect Miller ... after which it can also elect Donald Fehr and Scott Boras.

Not that Fehr has a vested interest or anything.