Are you enjoying thinking about Ruben Amaro Jr. signing Josh Hamilton this off-season? Excited about the possibility of B.J. Upton patrolling center field next year? Hanging on every tweet from Jim Salisbury to see when the Phillies dive into this off-season's free agent market?
If so, then you have Marvin Miller to thank. Miller died today at the ripe old age of 95. The modern game of baseball that we love would not be what it is without him.
Follow the link in the paragraph about to learn all about Miller, but the important thing to note at this point in the baseball season is that before Miller took his trademark bulldog tenacity to the owners on the issue, there was no free agency. Players just signed with the same team each off-season because that was their only option (unless the team decided it didn't want them). The players had zero control; the owners had all the control.
In other words, if Miller hadn't changed baseball, B.J. Upton would have to re-sign with the Rays, Michael Bourn with the Braves, and Josh Hamilton with the Rangers. They would have zero negotiating power, because if they didn't like what the team was offering, their only other option was to not play baseball for any team.
Baseball players have everything they have today because of Miller's efforts to create the strongest union in sports. He fought greedy multi-milliionaires who cared nothing about the players, little about the sport, and everything about their own bottom line. Of course the union isn't perfect, but what it has done for baseball is a hell of a lot better than what was going on before.
If you have the chance, I highly recommend reading Lords of the Realm. It is an incredibly enjoyable and informative look at the relationship between the owners and the players throughout the history of baseball.
Miller, of course, plays a huge role in the book. As he must, because he is one of the most important figures in the history of the sport.