It's no surprise former Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller has become one of the players' key voices

Rob Bradford
May 26, 2020 - 5:56 am
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It struck Burke Badenhop like a bolt of lightning.

"He’s Tom Glavine! I’ll have to text him, ‘Congratulations man, you’re now Tom Glavine,'" the former relief pitcher blurted out to begin the phone conversation.

It's no coincidence Badenhop immediately drew the comparison from his friend and former teammate Andrew Miller to Glavine. The former Braves pitcher was, after all, the player so many identified with when it came to Miller's current role as MLB Players Association executive board member, especially a young aspiring big leaguer growing up near Atlanta like Badenhop.

During that 1994 strike Glavine was the one out front and center, oftentimes speaking for the players during the time of chaos. These confusing coronavirus-impacted days it is Miller and Yankees catcher Chris Iannetta taking the lead roles for the MLBPA as it wades through some extremely uncertain and game-changing waters while negotiating with the owners.

Badehhop's playing days are done (now working in the Diamondbacks organization) but he still has a good grasp on the severity of what Miller and Co. are facing. The former Sox reliever got a taste just last week when having to watch his alma mater's baseball team, Bowling Green, see its program disbanded due to the recent financial strife.

It's the kind of intricate issues Badenhop believes his former roommate with the Marlins is equipped to handle.

"It’s a very unique situation," he said. "Thankfully now this is pre-baseball. He’s not having to play baseball, getting outs for the Cardinals while dealing with this. I think it’s good because he’s a real smart guy.

"Bowling green next got axed and we were talking about the totality of the sport and how it makes a difference. It’s heavy stuff but I think it’s something he can easily handle."

For Red Sox fans, memories of Miller have little to do with front-and-center moments. He was the guy the Sox traded for heading into the 2011 season for minor-leaguer Dustin Richardson, with Theo Epstein and Co. willing to take a chance on the sixth-overall pick in the 2006 Draft. After a rough introduction to the Red Sox that first year -- still living the life of a starter with an awkwardly high leg-kick -- Miller found his way in 2012 as a reliever.

By the time the 2014 non-waiver trade deadline came around Miller had established himself as a very reliable set-up man, paving the way for a trade to Baltimore for Eduardo Rodriguez.

He was thoughtful. He was affable. And he was somewhat quiet. But all throughout a career that started with facing Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter in a game at Yankee Stadium just two months after being drafted out of University of North Carolina Miller was studying.

"He’s really inquisitive, a critical thinker and a smart guy," Badenhop said. "But he’s also very well-read. He very much takes an interest in a wide variety of things. He can probably talk to you about politics, business, music and things like that. He’s a pretty smart guy. Anything he gets his hands on he can learn. He’s probably really good at fishing. He’s probably really good at playing cards. He’s kind of one of those guys who picks up on things and things that he likes he gets pretty good at.

"I remember living with him our first couple of years with the Marlins and he’s coming home with these George Harrison CDs, books and just cool culture-type things that your average isn’t doing when they’re coming back from Best Buys with a handful of CDs.

"When he was drafted out of high school Tampa offered him a decent amount of money a couple of days before he left school. He said, ‘I’m good.’ His Mom would always complain about not having time to go back to school in the fall. This guy signed a major league contract and is pitching against Derek Jeter in Yankee Stadium a month after his Draft and here is his Mom complaining that he’s not going back to take classes at Chapel Hill. So there was the academic bend, with being important to him and his family. It’s interesting. You don’t find maybe people who get that September call-up but worry about attending classes Chapel Hill."

It's one thing to sit back and observe, but it was clear that Miller also wanted to be active. Hence, his introduction to union matters as the player representative for the Marlins.

"He’s been involved in the union. I was always interested in the stuff, but in order to take a real primary role you have to know you’re going to be around. He obviously fits the role, being a guy who signed a major league contract out of the Draft," Badenhop noted. "If you’re any good you’re not a Marlin for long and if you’re bad you’re probably not a Marlin for long, either. It just kind of made sense, guess who is probably going to be a Marlin for a while. One of the guys they traded Miguel Cabrera.

"He’s a very smart guy so it probably leans that way. When he got to Boston there were a lot of interesting things on how his contract worked and what his service time was. So there were a lot of union things as it went along so maybe that shed some more light into the labor negotiation stuff. So it doesn’t surprise me at all."

And now Miller finds himself in the thick of one of the more complicated times in baseball history.

The guy who was with him in Detroit, Florida and Boston believes he is more than up to the task.

"I don't think there is anything he can't handle," Badenhop said.