Andrew Miller Says MLB Players Up for 'Anything' That's Safe in COVID-19 Return

Blake SchusterCorrespondent IIIMay 9, 2020

St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Andrew Miller (21) delivers during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)
Scott Kane/Associated Press

St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Andrew Miller wants to get back to playing baseball as soon as possible and is willing to adopt whatever changes MLB must make for that to happen—as long as those changes ensure the safety of all involved. 

The MLB Players Association executive board member told ESPN's Jesse Rogers the union is open to all ideas under that condition:

"I don't think anything can be done until that [safety] can be guaranteed and we feel comfortable with it. We want to put a good product on the field, but that's totally secondary to the health of the players. We are generally younger and healthier, but that doesn't mean our staff is, that doesn't mean the umpires are going to be in the clear.

"It's not hard to get one degree of separation away from players who have kids who may have conditions, or other family members that live with them. I'm confident before anything happens, we'll sort through all those issues."

Miller has remained extremely active with the MLBPA throughout his career. His voice carries plenty of weight as an executive board member. So when he speaks up, he's hardly talking just for himself. 

After a conference call with the union's membership last week, it appears the pitcher is gearing up for a long-term fight with MLB—specifically as it relates to finances. Miller was quick to point out to Rogers that unlike other sports, the non-salary-cap system in baseball means players don't get a larger piece of the profits in years when revenues go up.

That may become a rallying cry for players as the league barrels toward a new round of collective bargaining next year. 

"The way our sport works is we are not tied to revenue in any way," Miller said. "If the owners hit a home run and make more money, we don't go back and ask for more on our end. Ultimately this isn't about money. We need to find a way to safely get our players on the field in a safe manner and control that. I would hope this [finances] doesn't turn into anything regarding that stuff."

As far as a return to play, Miller said he heard from numerous athletes expressing concern over leaving their families for an extended period of time under the floated Arizona plan, in which teams would all quarantine together at a central location. 

There are downsides to any plan at this point, but in order for baseball to return, players may have to live with some of the restrictions the league puts in place.

"Everybody is up for anything that makes sense, [though] I don't think we want to go back to southern league bus trips," Miller said. "For safety there are compromises players will make, no doubt. If riding by bus is better than riding by plane, we'll listen ... I could see instead of taking an hour flight, we'd take a 2-3 bus trip. Why not? I would listen to it."

For now there's still no hard timeline on a return to play. It's Miller's job to help figure out how to make that happen safely for the players.