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Former players urge Miller be put in Hall of Fame

Former players urge Miller be put in Hall of Fame

NEW YORK (AP) Baseball players urged that Marvin Miller be put in the Hall of Fame as they spoke Monday night during a memorial for the union leader.

In an auditorium filled with Hall of Famers, dozens of retired and current players, baseball officials, agents and labor lawyers, 13 speakers praised the former baseball union head, who helped players gain free agency in the 1970s and created the path to multimillion-dollar salaries. Miller died in November at 95.

``It is a travesty he is not in the Hall of Fame,'' former major league player and manager Buck Martinez said during the two-hour program.

Miller has been turned down five times by various Hall of Fame committees that considered baseball executives.

Jim Bouton, who entered the majors in 1962, was critical that Bowie Kuhn, baseball's commissioner from 1969-84, is in the Hall but Miller has been kept out.

``All those policies were not Bowie Kuhn's policies. In fact they were all Marvin's policies because Marvin won every battle he had with Bowie Kuhn,'' Bouton said. ``I think Bowie Kuhn was 0 for 67.''

Miller is next eligible to appear on a Hall ballot this December.

Hall of Famers Dave Winfield and Joe Morgan were among those who spoke before a crowd of about 450 at New York University School of Law's Tishman Auditorium. Reggie Jackson, Keith Hernandez, Steve Garvey, Ted Sizemore and David Cone were among the approximately three dozen former players in the audience.

Major League Baseball was represented by executive vice president Rob Manfred and senior vice presidents Katy Feeney and Phyllis Merhige. Also attending were George Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service; Toru Matsubara, executive director of Japan's players' association; and Miller's children, Susan and Peter.

Winfield, who used free agency to sign a record-breaking contract after the 1980 season, said Miller taught him life lessons he still thinks of. Winfield addressed the five active players in the audience: Andrew Bailey, Bill Bray, Craig Breslow, Adam Ottavino and Micah Owings.

``Anything you do in life, know where you've come from, where you are and where you're going, and Marvin was able to share that with us,'' Winfield said. ``Know the history of the players' association. Know how you got to where you are today.''

A former economist for the United Steelworkers Union, Miller spent 16 1/2 years as executive director of the Major League Players Association, starting in 1966.

During Miller's tenure, the average major league salary increased from $19,000 to $241,000. It was $3.2 million last year. Players remembered his soft-spokeness, how when speaking on the field during spring training he kept lowering his voice to force players to crane their necks to hear.

``Every time somebody signs one of these wonderful contracts, and there are so many of them out there, I think before they get the first check they should have to write an essay on Marvin Miller,'' said Rusty Staub, a big leaguer from 1963-85.

Current union head Michael Weiner hosted the tribute, which included video clips taped in 2010 of Miller reminiscing. Players spoke in order of when they made their big league debuts.

``We could have searched 100 years and wouldn't have found a more perfect person for our situation,'' said Morgan, a Hall of Fame second baseman who played in the majors from 1963-84.

Donald Fehr, who served as Miller's general counsel from 1977-82 and then headed the union from 1983-09, said he could read Miller's mood by what drink he ordered at lunch: a Tom Collins signaled a happy mood, a martini meant he was perplexed and Old Grand-Dad Bourbon was a sign of problems.

``The reason I think he is remembered as he is, is that the baseball players' association became a symbol, it became a symbol of what a union could be if it was run right,'' said Fehr, current head of the NHL players' union.

Martinez talked about a telephone call he received from former Oakland Athletics owner Charlie Finley during the 1985 labor negotiations.

``You tell Marvin to stick by his guns,'' Martinez recalled Finley saying. ``You guys are doing the right thing.''

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Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

The Caps stand just four wins away from winning their first Stanley Cup. To get those four wins, however, they will have to beat the Vegas Golden Knights.

Here are the keys to the series that will give the Caps the win.

Figure out how to beat Marc-Andre Fleury

No player has been as important to his team this postseason as Fleury is to the Golden Knights. He is reason No. 1, 2 and 3 why they have made their improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final in the team’s inaugural season.

Fleury’s personal numbers are staggering. Through 15 games, he has a .947 save percentage and has recorded four shutouts.

Vegas has been a middle of the pack team in terms of offense this postseason scoring 2.87 goals per game. They have lost only three playoff games thus far, but, as dominant as they have been, they certainly are not blowing away the competition. Of their 12 wins, ten of them have come with a margin of victory of two goals or less.

This shows you just how important Fleury is to their success. They are not scoring opponents into submission, rather they are relying on Fleury to keep opponents at bay.

Fleury is the absolute key to the Golden Knights’ success. It’s easier said than done, but if the Caps find a way to beat him consistently, Vegas becomes exponentially more beatable.

Win the neutral zone battle

Much of this series will be determined between the blue lines. The Golden Knights are an incredibly fast team.

Just to get to this point, the Caps had to beat two other speedy teams in the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning. They did it primarily by slowing down the offense in the neutral zone with a 1-3-1 trap. With so many bodies defending in the neutral zone, opponents have struggled to break the puck cleanly into the Caps’ defensive zone. The Caps are cutting off passing and skating lanes, creating turnovers and generating odd-man breaks in the other direction by catching opponents’ defensemen playing too aggressively on the rush.

As fast as the Penguins and Lightning were, however, the Golden Knights are even faster. Will the trap be as effective against Vegas?

Limit obstruction penalties

When playing against a team with speed, penalties often become a major issue. When trying to defend against fast players, if you get caught flat-footed or out of position, this tends to lead to obstruction penalties like tripping and hooking. When a player realizes he’s been beat, he does everything he can to prevent that from costing his team, leading to those type of penalties.

Vegas’ power play has not been lights out by any means with a success rate of only 17.6-percent this postseason, but you cannot continually give the opposition chances to score by frequently having a player sent to the penalty box.

Positioning is going to make all the difference in the world in this series to make sure a player is not forced into taking an obstruction penalty just to slow down the Golden Knights.

Get off to good starts

Vegas is 10-1 in the postseason when scoring first. Their secret to success is a mix between goaltending and speed.

Fleury has been phenomenal in net and the Golden Knights are a quick breakout team. It is very hard to get much sustained offensive pressure against them because once they get the puck, they are going down the ice at a million miles an hour.

Having to play from behind against a team like Vegas is not a recipe for success. Just getting the puck and keeping up with them is exhausting. Having to then find a way to then beat Fleury when he has a lead to protect is all the more daunting.

Strong starts will be vital to ensuring the Caps are not frequently having to play from behind.

Depth scoring

Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant likes to roll his four lines. It makes sense since there drop-off between his top line and fourth line is not as dramatic as it is on most NHL teams.

Consider how this team was constructed. The expansion draft did not give Vegas access to superstar players, but they also did not have to take any fringe NHL/healthy scratch players to fill the fourth line either. They filled their roster with the best players available to them which gives them four lines of much more comparative strength than most NHL teams.

While this means the Caps have a stronger top six, it also allows Vegas to roll four lines and take advantage of other teams’ bottom six.

You can never take a shift off against Vegas. There is no weak line to exploit. The Golden Knights come at you with four lines and relentless pressure and forecheck for 60 minutes.

Washington will probably get more production from its top six than Vegas will, or at the very least it will be a push. The question is what kind of production will each team get from the bottom six? If the Caps have the edge in depth production as well, they will be in good shape.

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

It's almost here.

After a lengthy break between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are set to meet on Monday for Game 1.

Who will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir give their keys to the series and their predictions for the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, JJ speaks with several member from the local media to get their insights and predictions.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.