|Tuesday, February 25
Updated: February 26, 5:34 PM ET
Miller doesn't quite understand Fehr's actions
By Alan Schwarz
Special to ESPN.com
Editor's note: Alan Schwarz recently sat down with Marvin Miller in New York to discuss his possible induction into baseball's Hall of Fame. Part 2 of the interview follows, in which Miller discusses ephedra and the union's current executive director, Don Fehr.
Alan Schwarz: I don't know how much you have kept up with the current furor over ephedra. How would you handle it?
Marvin Miller: Pretty much as Don seems to be -- that is, he's not going to refuse to talk about it if the commissioner and the owners want to meet to talk about it, but his first off-the-cuff reaction is the same as mine. It's kind of absurd that you're going to find a way to ban something that a 16-year-old can walk into a store and buy legally -- that you're going to tell a grown man that his councilman, his state legislator, his governor, his congressmen, his senators, his president ... they sit on their (butt) and do nothing about banning this, to say nothing about the Food and Drug Administration and all those with a direct responsibility, and baseball is going to ban it? That's ridiculous. It's absolutely ridiculous.
The congressman who has been calling for a ban (Henry Waxman of California) ... Congress hasn't lifted a finger to address this, and he's asking what other people are going to do about it? That's what I call real nerve. He should be ashamed of himself. They've dropped the ball and want somebody to pick it up.
What I would tell (commissioner Bud) Selig is, "Let's sit down together and first get the facts about this. I don't want to hear somebody's opinion. I want the facts. And even if we have to finance it, I want a study done. If it says it's damaging or even partially damaging, we want a real program here explaining what the facts are, and a whole campaign that's going to urge players to stay away from something that's this dangerous.
"And if we find it's dangerous, let's join together and lobby the congress. Let's lobby the state legislature. Everywhere. And point out we've done a survey, it's dangerous, and what the hell are you doing to allow it to go on like this?" Lobby to make it illegal.
Schwarz: Critics of the union claim that it's that organization's responsibility to protect its membership, recognizing that the players, often young and hypermotivated to reach the major leagues, can't protect themselves.
Miller: I don't think that it is the responsibility of the union to protect its membership from life. There's no reading of the labor laws that tells you that. When it impinges upon the work longevity and his work, in this case, then the union has an interest. But it's not an overriding responsibility to say that your actions off the field and in the offseason and whatever have to be monitored by the union. Or anybody. That's ridiculous.
Giving your members the facts, I think, is the closest you come to having a responsibility. And giving them the best advice you know how. But it doesn't go beyond that.
Schwarz: And of course banning something goes in hand with testing for it, which opens up a whole other can of worms; that's an issue considerably larger than just the spirit of banning something. But the union has allowed for a form of, however exploratory, testing for steroids in the last Basic Agreement ...
Miller: I would not have done that.
Schwarz: What is the difference between the way you feel now and the way the union handled it last August?
Miller: Sitting here without knowing what the pressures were in working out an agreement, and what the unspoken or unwritten quid pro quos might have been, that's hard to say. But my honest first reaction is that the right of privacy for adults comes far ahead of this question of mandatory testing. I just wouldn't go down that road at all.
When there's probable cause, as defined by the courts -- the kind of thing you need to get a search warrant, to search a man's person, his home, his garage, his car trunk -- that's one thing. Without it, just to have a union and an employer sit down and say, "I am going to deprive people of their privacy rights that go far beyond what any court would let me do ..."
Schwarz: Were you angry when you saw that was included?
Miller: As I said, without knowing what led up to it, no, I'm not angry. At some point I'll find out more facts about it.
Schwarz: You haven't spoken with Don about it?
Schwarz: I'm surprised that given your strong feelings about the subject and the work you had put into fighting it in the past, you wouldn't want to find out what those circumstances were.
Miller: I haven't had any conversation with Don since the settlement. No, that's not true ... he called me to invite Terry (Miller's wife) and me to accompany the All-Star tour of Japan. I have left messages for him a couple of times on unrelated subjects and I have received calls back. But to the best of my memory we have not had lunch or dinner or a chance to talk.
Schwarz: It seems strange to not have spoken about the agreement in the six months since. Have you two diverged ideologically?
Miller: I don't think so. At least I don't know so. During the negotiations he was so busy we kind of got out of the habit of even having lunch.
It's not ideological. At the press conference at which Bud Selig and Don announced the agreement, with Don standing next to him, Selig made the statement that this was the first time that a Collective Bargaining Agreement was reached without a stoppage. That's so untrue it's ridiculous. The settlements that were made in '66 and '67 and '68 and '69 and '70, strike in '72, but then in '73 and '76 ... but my point is that Don didn't correct him. He's standing there. I don't mean rudely interrupting him, but when he got a chance to talk, he still said nothing about it. Now, that's not ideological. That's tactical.
I could no more stand by and listen to a distortion of history than jump off the roof. But he can. It may be that he felt, "Oh hell, sure it's not true but this is not the time to bring this up."
My next thought was, is it possible he doesn't know? Don came here in the summer of '77. The settlements that were made before 1977, he wasn't even here. Is it possible that this went by him? I don't know. But I haven't had a chance to ask him: "How come you stood by and you listened to that jerk ... ?"
Selig, for part of that time that I'm talking about, was not just an owner -- he was on the Player Relations Committee! He had to know! And he makes a statement like that? What's his motivation? Well, he's the first commissioner to conclude a Collective Bargaining Agreement without a stoppage, I guess. But there are people out there who know it's not so. Why do you do that?
Schwarz: It sounds as if you and Don might not be on the best terms.
Miller: I wasn't put off. I was puzzled. I couldn't do that. I couldn't listen to a deliberate falsehood and stand by the guy who was making it.
Even when I was the executive director and he (Fehr) was general counsel, we did not always view matters identically ...
I'm more removed from this than you're indicating. I've done that purposely. Part of it, in the beginning, after I first left, was that there were owners and writers who would write these columns about how I'm still running the union, and Don is a carbon copy, and he consults with me before he has breakfast. None of it was true. But one of the results of it was I had less and less to do with it.
Schwarz: What is your assessment of the current CBA?
Miller: Don't know yet. I truly don't -- I'm not trying to duck it. I think you have to see its results. This is not simple, like they took a 50 percent pay cut, when you know it in advance.
Schwarz: Do you think the owners are colluding?
Miller: Oh yeah. This bears all the signs -- except one. They've learned something. Collusion in the 1980s was badly handled by the owners. They could not point to a single case -- not one case in four years -- of a player being offered anything by any other club when his prior club said it still was interested. Not one case. They've gotten past that and a few other subtleties. Otherwise it's got all the earmarks.
Schwarz: What are the earmarks?
Miller: I'm not gonna get into it. The union is collecting evidence. I give them no clues.
Alan Schwarz is the senior writer of Baseball America magazine and a regular contributor to ESPN.com.