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Don Fehr speaks

Dec 2, 2009, 11:29 AM EDT

Outgoing union head Don Fehr, the guy baseball fans love to hate, sat for an extended interview and as you might expect, said a few interesting things.  Most interesting to me is his answer to the question about his biggest regret:

“There’s not anything that I’m prepared to talk about with one
exception. In 1994, when we went on strike, we went out in early
August. We thought that would give us an opportunity to force
negotiations, to get an agreement, and we would save the season and the World Series
If we had known at the time there would be zero possibility of that, we
would have waited another month, month-and-a-half. The strike probably
wouldn’t have begun until mid- to late September. But we didn’t know
that. … We were optimists.”

I can’t help but think that the “not anything I’m prepared to talk about” comment covers an awful lot of territory. Probably a lot of it being hyper-sensitive confidential stuff that lawyers and union heads tend to get involved in.

I also can’t help but think a lot of that has to do with the manner in which he and the union handled PEDs.  He holds forth on steroids more later in the interview, giving his standard — and arguably defensible — answer about how his job was to advance players interests and nothing more, and that resisting PED testing was part of that. Still, I think he ultimately muffed the PED issue even on that basis, even if it was something that was hard to see at the time. He may or may not come to admit that later, but today is probably too early to hear any mea culpas from the guy on the subject.

But I am perplexed about the regret he cites. He admits that even if the strike was pushed off a bit, there was no way to save the World Series in 1994.  Why, then, it makes any difference that it happened in September instead of August is a mystery to me. So we could have gotten closer to seeing Matt Williams hit 61 home runs? So Expos fans could have gotten closer to having the future of their team saved only to have it ripped from them like it was?

Anyway, I know a lot of you love to slam Fehr, so feel free to read the interview and refresh your stores of ammunition.

  1. RobRob - Dec 2, 2009 at 11:53 AM

    I think he’s trying to say that the players were not trying to kill the WS in 1994. In other words, they went on strike early enough to save the WS, so it’s at the feet of the owners that it got canceled.

    Or put yet another way, “Hey look… If we had *wanted* to kill the World Series, we would have done it much more overtly.”

  2. Ron - Dec 2, 2009 at 11:57 AM

    Isn’t Fehr the best reason for Marvin Miller not to go into the Hall? Because if Miller goes in, won’t people start advocating for Fehr also?
    That’s the argument they use against keeping Dawson/Blyleven/Trammell/Whitaker/etc out, so shouldn’t it work for all areas of consideration?

  3. Craig Calcaterra - Dec 2, 2009 at 12:06 PM

    People who advocate for Fehr just because Miller goes in (if it happens) would be wrong to do so. Miller was the driver behind a fundamental change in baseball. Fehr merely exploited the change to more lucrative effect.
    The advocates for Miller — which I know you are not one of, Ron — don’t want him in the Hall because he made the players money. We want him in because he brought fundamental change to the owner-player relationship that (a) went a long way towards remedying decades of exploitation; and (b) changed the competitive landscape of the game (In our view for the better, though we know some disagree).
    No such argument exists for Fehr. Good union head, but simply being a good union head isn’t Hall of Fame worthy.

  4. Mark Armour - Dec 2, 2009 at 12:12 PM

    I actually like Fehr. He had a job where it was essentially impossible to perform well and have the fans like him. He was not smooth with the press, clearly, but he struck me as honest and well-meaning in some tough situations. I would rather have a beer with him than virtually anyone in baseball over the past 20 years.
    This is likely a sad thing to say, but so be it.

  5. Jason @ IIATMS - Dec 2, 2009 at 12:26 PM

    I can’t help but think that the “not anything I’m prepared to talk about” comment covers an awful lot of territory. Probably a lot of it being hyper-sensitive confidential stuff that lawyers and union heads tend to get involved in.
    Yeah, like his yet to be released/written memoirs….
    Milk ain’t for free!

  6. Old Gator - Dec 2, 2009 at 1:53 PM

    I loved his answer on steroids. Quick, sign him up as an assistant hitting instructor for the Cardinals!

  7. Andy H - Dec 2, 2009 at 2:02 PM

    “No such argument exists for Fehr. Good union head, but simply being a good union head isn’t Hall of Fame worthy.”
    I don’t know, aren’t pretty much all of the Commissioner’s in the Hall?

  8. Aaron W. - Dec 2, 2009 at 6:07 PM

    It seems to me that Fehr states his responsibility to the players
    rather narrowly. I would think that presenting the public and the union in the best possible manner would be an interest worth representing. If we look at Fehr as the public face of the MLBPA (which he is), then his public statements and behavior — especially on the steroids issue — have been embarrassing and detrimental to the public perception of the players and their union. Public perception isn’t the job’s #1 issue, but it has a dampening effect on your efforts to carry out your job. Take the appearance before Congress: Bud Selig shrugs his shoulders with the “Hey, I WANTED better testing, but they threatened to strike” while Fehr digs a PR grave for his organization by chanting “No testing.” I think that Selig became much better at representing himself and the owners to the public over the years (better off than ’94, eh?). Fehr has taken Marvin Miller’s remarkable ability to make the MLBPA seem like a righteous cause and dropped the ball.
    It’s not such a big deal in the scheme of things, but sometimes appearances really ARE important. Ask the players named in the Mitchell Report if Fehr’s public position on the PEDs issue was unimportant.

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