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Donald Fehr, Thank You

June 23, 2009

Read this piece written by Phil Sheridan in Philadelphia before you read my blog please.

Has it really come to this?

Donald Fehr took over as head the MLBPA almost three decades ago. The men he was appointed to lead saw their income rise by almost 600 percent, he stopped the ownership of his constituents from colluding to keep salaries down, winning a judgement of almost $300 million, fought for and won pension and benefits that are unsurpassed in the modern day working world to name just a few things.

And Mr. Sheridan would have us believe the Don is responsible for the lack of integrity, ethics and morals now prevelant in the game.

Really?

It’s Donald Fehr’s fault A-Rod stuck a needle in his ass? It’s Donald Fehr’s fault Manny took a female hormone to regulate his testosterone levels? It’s Donald Fehr’s fault that ‘allegedly’ the greatest players of our generation cheated their asses off because being great was just not enough?

It’s Donald Fehr’s fault that we players stood in front of Congress and either lied our asses off or didn’t ‘speak our minds’ about the catastrophic and illegal conditions we players willingly chose to work within?

It’s Donald Fehrs fault that owners paid salaries to a level that has driven the “common fan” away from the bleachers?

It’s Donald Fehr’s fault that the sports media, like eveyrone else, took the 1997, ’98 seasons at face value, and believed in the huge biceps, skulls and stats as honest and hard working gains?

That ‘saving the game’ during that period of time was anything but stupid men, with insane God-given talent, choosing the wrong path at almost every turn?

So Phil would have us believe that in addition to running the union, he was supposed to visit each player individually and parent them to make the right choices for the good of the game? Isn’t that what parents are for? Isn’t that what society is supposed to do????

We LIVE to give people a second chance. Short of murder (and even then we sometimes are OK with it) and crimes against children is there really anything a human being can do and NOT get a clean slate?

That’s not a bad thing, but it sure as hell isn’t Donald Fehr’s fault that major league ballplayers, GROWN MEN with wives, children, pets and homes (oh, and hundreds of millions of dollars) made stupid and in some cases illegal choices with which to live their lives and perpetuate fraud on the fans.

Donald Fehr did what he was paid to do, and he did it pretty damn good too.

We, the players (well former player here) are the ones completely and totally responsible for the lack of ethics, integrity, and morals so prevelant in sports today. Drugs, spouse abuse, animal abuse, DUI, DWI, vehicular manslaughter, murder, rape, extortion, gambling, last I checked Mr. Fehr had never been accused of any of those crimes, but there are police blotters around the country with athletes names on them.

A name often dismissed in the last 10 years is Rick Helling. Check him out. As someone who played with him I can attest to the fact that he was everything nice anyone could say, and honest to a fault. If more of us had acted on the feelings we had, which he did, things could have been different, things could have changed. We didn’t, and for that our generation, the generation we played in now defined as the “Steroid Era”, got it’s name.

That’s on us, the owners, and the Commissioner, but it sure as hell isn’t on Don Fehr.

Thanks for the hard work Don.

51 Comments leave one →
  1. Jeff permalink
    June 23, 2009 12:00 pm

    Mr. Schilling:

    I agree with your call for personal responsibility, however, Mr. Fehr does share some of the responsibility. The deals negotiated with the unions do not encourage a clean sport, even now. No regular testing (why isn’t it monthly or even bi-monthly and for every player?), no true accountability (Isn’t Manny still going to make 10+ million this year? Isn’t he even playing in the minors right now? Why aren’t cheaters banned for life?), and no full-disclosure to sanctify the present at the expense of the past.

    In addition, it is my understanding that the union has, on multiple occassions, encouraged players not to talk about steriods.

    Mr. Fehr has some responsibility. Selig, the players, umpires, media and fans all share it.

    But to honor and absolve the man who was principally responsible for the union deals preventing regular testing, accountabiilty, and full-disclosure…well, Mr. Schilling, that just doesn’t seem to me to be the right approach.

    Thank you for your hard work. Please reconsider your position, or do me the courtesy of explaining where I’m off base.

    Respectfully,

    Jeff
    Don Fehr, like everyone else at the MLBPA, worked for us, not the other way around. It might have seemed different many times throughout the years, but he never acted alone, or did things on a whim, he acted and worked how we told him as a union to, and for that the onus is on the players.

  2. Bob Rishar permalink
    June 23, 2009 12:18 pm

    It’s an old argument-is the lawyer who defends a person accused of an awful crime just doing his job or does he soil his own reputation by defending him?
    I hate to see people get a pass because, after all, they were just doing their jobs. This reeks of the “I was just following orders” defense.
    Especially when your job is such a big part of baseball, which can truly be said to be special due to a Supreme Court ruling exempting it from Anti-trust laws, the greater good of the game should at least play some role in what you do.
    Oh I know attendance is up and everyone is so happy with all the new ballparks and money but baseball’s standards of numbers and achievements has been badly devalued.
    No Mr. Fehr is not responsible for the steroid era, but he most certainly played a big role. He was not a user, or a player looking the other way, but in representing all these players he took an active role in slowing the advance of steroid testing.
    No,Donald Fehr’s legacy is only that like so many other greedy, selfish, and short-sighted people in history-he was just doing his job. Let’s just leave it at that.

  3. Bob Rishar permalink
    June 23, 2009 12:40 pm

    It doesn’t make much sense to indict the gang members while absolving the gang leader of any blame.
    Donald Fehr was just like the owners, commissioner, and player’s agents. They all were willing accomplices who fostered this behavior in the name of greed.

  4. Rhayader permalink
    June 23, 2009 12:46 pm

    I agree Curt; for the most part, Don Fehr was just doing his job to the best of his abilities. The men taking drugs were capable of making their own decisions, and Fehr had nothing to do with it.

    I will point out a couple things though. The first is the “anonymous” test results mentioned by Sheridan. In a desperate attempt to show that the 2003 testing included enough false positives as to bring the number of accurate positives below the 5% threshold for continued testing, the players union asked that the results were preserved for investigation. This made the court order for these results possible, and directly led to the Rodriguez and Sosa revelations, and around 100 more possible leaks. The worst part is that Fehr had absolutely no statistical chance of getting enough false positives to get below 5%.

    The other thing I’ll point out is the lack of support he provided for players like Rick Helling — guys who were fed up with the steroid issue and wanted to see changes. By ignoring those voices, Fehr might have secured hundreds of millions for A-Roid, but who knows how many honest players he helped push out of a paycheck because they weren’t willing to cheat but didn’t have a union that would agree to drug testing. Why are the Rick Hellings any less worthy of defense and bargaining than the muscle-bound cheaters? By keeping drug testing off the table for so long, Fehr ignored the well-being of the many honest men in his union.

  5. Elvis Elvisberg permalink
    June 23, 2009 12:56 pm

    It’s Donald Fehr’s fault A-Rod stuck a needle in his ass?

    Incentives affect behavior. Fehr fought to maintain a zero-punishment policy for steroids. That led to widespread use.

    A more moral person in Fehr’s position would have stood up and led. He would have talked about the dangers to health, the danger to the game’s reputation, and the unfairness to players trying to do it right. He never did, until Congress forced him, as Sheridan writes.

    It’s Donald Fehr’s fault that the sports media, like eveyrone else, took the 1997, ‘98 seasons at face value

    Sheridan doesn’t absolve Selig of all responsibility in that column, and I suspect he’s honest enough to admit that the media, too, shares blame.

  6. Bob Rishar permalink
    June 23, 2009 12:57 pm

    And in spite of all of this you want to thank him? That is so far removed from reality it’s sad.

  7. Jeff permalink
    June 23, 2009 1:04 pm

    Dear Mr. Schilling:

    Thank you for your response. I feel I have a better understanding of your position – that as he acted on instructions of the players that it is the players, and not chiefly his, responsibility. Perhaps there is some merit to that; as Bob Rishar points out, lawyers are not held responsible for the views of their clients. However, another analogy might be more apt – the president executes the whims of Congress, and yet remains accountable for the actions he takes because of his broad discretion in how to execute Congress’s whims. So too, I understand, Mr. Fehr made decisions executing the whim of the union, and it is how he executed the union’s whim for which he should be held accountable (and merely that, unless you felt he had a greater duty towards baseball, fans, the country, the truth, a higher power, etc. to work towards ensuring prevention, accountability and disclosure). It is a dilemna.

    And it is precisely because it is a dilemna I remain unconvinced that endorsing Mr. Fehr’s legacy is the right call. Nonetheless, as you are much closer to the situation than I am (as a casual fan since, really, 2003), I’ll trust that if you believe that unequivacally endorsing Mr. Fehr’s legacy is the right call, I will respect your position.

    Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts.

    Sincerely,

    Jeff

  8. Mike permalink
    June 23, 2009 1:10 pm

    Yes, Donald Fehr “worked” for the players, but to say he was just doing what the players told him to is ludicrous. Even you, Curt, should admit that some of his constituents couldn’t put together a meaningful sentence, let alone tell him what they want him to do. His constant fighting against testing, including the ongoing battle against blood tests for HGH on the basis of their being “invasive” is absolutely ridiculous. Part of being able to earn the money players do comes with responsibilities, such as meeting with the media, keeping themselves in playing shape, etc. That should also include not ingesting/injecting banned and illegal substances and being subjected to testing for the same. To claim a little blood draw is an invasion of privacy or of the “sanctity of one’s body,” is absolutely inane. I respect what you have done for the game, now let’s let everyone else “put up or shut up” without Mr. Fehr’s constant blocking.

  9. Bob Rishar permalink
    June 23, 2009 1:35 pm

    Jeff-
    You can understand where Curt’s admiration of Donald Fehr is based. After all thanks to Mr. Fehr Curt made a lot of money. But for the rest of us who didn’t receive a slice of the pie and in fact had our love of the game preyed upon, it’s tough to share Curt’s views. This is just another example of just how far players views are removed from most ordinary fans. Basically this is the same attitude that is at the core of the steroid mess.

  10. JonT permalink
    June 23, 2009 1:46 pm

    “…he stopped the ownership of his constituents from colluding to keep salaries down…”

    And then:

    “It’s Donald Fehr’s fault that owners paid salaries to a level that has driven the ‘common fan’ away from the bleachers?”

    Doesn’t the first quote indicate that the answer to the second quote is “yes”?

  11. joe permalink
    June 23, 2009 1:51 pm

    Fehr was great for you guys. As a good GOP member you must think that the auto union was great for their members. 90 dollars an hour makes sense. Detroit is a great place to live now. That really help the auto industry didn,t it. You must also think that bunker hill day is a great idea. VOTE BUSH

  12. June 23, 2009 1:59 pm

    Curt,
    As a Red Sox fan since 1967 I was am one who truly would like to thank you for help the SOx to 2 WS Championships.Getting you put RSN over the top in 2004 after the devastating loss in 2003. Your efforts especially Game 6 ALCS 2004 will always be remembered.
    But I must disagaree with you to an extent. I don’t think one can put the blame on any one individual for soaring ticket prices, the Steroid Era and subsequentloss if integrity in the game. However I think one would be remiss in giving Fehr a pass on all being repsonsible for his role in where baseball is today.
    As a beneficiary of his work for the last 20 years, your loyalty is to be commended, even expected, but PLEASE- let’s not forget Fehr was part of fighting against drug testing. He viewed testing more of a collective bargaining issue than a health issue. He was also at the helm for the 1994 World Series debacle- again he played a role in its cancellation. In 1986 a box seat at Fenway cost 9 bucks – that same seat now cost $125. Forget about even trying to figure out how much concessions have risen. I understand there are a multitude of factors that contribute to ticket prices but the fact that player’s salaries rose over 600% had to have an impact on tix prices – there is no way you can convince me otherwise.
    The agents, players, MLBPA, owners, all made a lot of money under Fehr’s direction- that’s all good- but at the end of the day he wioll be rememebered – and rightly so- as one of the guys who butchered our national pastime.
    I am not a player, never played in MLB but as a business man who understands how to build business and manage a P and L statement, I can honestly say that Fehr’s efforts hurt the fans in the pocket book, and created doubt amongst many of us as to whether we were atching MLB otr the WWF. At the end of the day if there are no fans there is no MLB.

    Look forward to more of your blogs but let’s not make Fehr a saint; he is far from innocent.

  13. Shaun permalink
    June 23, 2009 2:20 pm

    You are absolutely right to thank him from your perspective…..basically he helped your personally go from a millionaire to a multi-millionaire, but let’s look at some of the things that happened on his watch:

    1. The 1994 players strike, and the loss of the World Series.
    2. Still no resolution in 1995. He basically allows fringe players to be
    used, and abused for the gain of current mlb players. Ask Kevin Millar,
    Rick Reed, Brian Daubach and anyone else who still not allowed in the
    union.
    3. Hey Curt….my tickets have gone up more than 600%
    4. Fought any kind of testing.

    Whatever….They are replacing Fehr with some Wiener…..An Oxymoron if you ask me.

  14. Matt permalink
    June 23, 2009 3:32 pm

    Apparantly, none of the people responding belong to a union. A union leader is hired to represent the members of the union. Nothing else. His primary job was to make sure that the employees he represented were given fair compensation for the services they provided. And to that, he succeeded quite well. Any union member would have been extremely happy to have the results Donald Fehr brought.

    No head of any union policies the activities of its members. Do you think the head of the UAW ever shows up at the home of the bumper installer and chastises him for his drinking problem? No. Yes, he had an obligation to help keep the health of the industry intact, but he didn’t have the right to do so without the approval of the members of the union. And many of the union members had issues over the matter of privacy in regards to drug testing, as well they should have. No other industry has the right to publish the names of members of a union who failed a drug test. These issues had to be worked out first (obviously, someone would notice if Barry Bonds had been suspended for a year with no explanation). But to put every problem you percieve with the game on Donald Fehr is shortsighted and just plain stupid.

    Like I said, if you were in a union and had Donald Fehr representing you and your interests, you would be extremely sad to see him retiring.

  15. Chris permalink
    June 23, 2009 3:32 pm

    I understand Curt’s position and I agree with him completely. Why is it that in every facet of life the blame, when something goes wrong, always gets pointed in any direction other than where it belongs? How can you blame a union leader for something an individual has chosen to do? Not any where, except in Curt’s blog, is there mention of the actual blame being placed on guys like Clemens, Bonds, Sosa, and Manny!!!!!!! These men were all adults and chose to use the steroids, so to blame someone else for that is ridiculous. Why is football not the same? I don’t see anyone blaming the commissioner or the player’s union head for those players in the NFL that have been caught using steroids, so why is this OK in baseball? I understand that most people just like to complain, but take a step back and look at things with the proper perspective and place the blame where it belongs, WITH THE INDIVIDUAL!!!!! Don Fehr did exactly what his job was supposed to be, he supported the players, protected the players, and provided the players with financial windfalls, exactly what the players wanted.

  16. Joe permalink
    June 23, 2009 4:21 pm

    I think Curt Schilling’s answer is confusing. Think about his justification for Fehr’s actions in actively opposing any testing for the “illegal” use of drugs? It seems that it is because the union members told him to do it – so that they could make more money? Why don’t drug users and drug dealers just form unions or join up with unions to prevent any business from testing anybody for anything? That way they could make more money. I heard the head of the Boston firemen’s union one night justifying that they are opposed to random drug testing so I guess it already happens.

    In the real world most of us are subjected to it and in the real world you often do not get a second chance. They do background checks that prevent people from getting jobs, public housing, voting, etc., etc.

  17. June 23, 2009 4:43 pm

    Dear Mr. Schilling:
    Mr. Fehr is the reason your era of baseball is called the steroid era. Every clean player has come under this cloud because of the lack of testing. It was more important for the union to fight the owners on this issue than to think of the well being of it’s members. The union should have been the ones to lead the crusade for testing. This would have leveled the field for the clean players.
    The temptation to do steroids comes down to $. The owners pay for performance. When your young an invincible the temptation is strong. When your near the end of a good career you just want to extend it.
    For years we have known that steroids cause health issues; Didn’t the union care? My guess is it came down to $. They sold the clean players down the river.
    Sincerely,
    Bob

  18. PapiFan permalink
    June 23, 2009 7:56 pm

    Curt, you obviously are happy with the job done by Don Fehr, but I respectfully disagree. I think he brought shame to Major League Baseball with his actions. Just seeing him and Selig in front of congress was an embarassment. You did not see the NFL so disorganized or so disinterested in protecting the integrity of their sport. The problem with your union, which is similar to most is that it protects the elite and ignores the masses. In fact the NBA has done a much better job then the MLB players assocation has done for their players. They had NBA rookies coming into the league and making more money then anybody on the team. What did the union do?? They went and served the whole league and not just the players making the large salaries, which is what baseball does. Now the salaries in the NBA are predetermined by draft position and there is a league minimum for the veteran players which is over twice as much as MLB’s which plays twice as many games and has a much longer season.

    Fehr ignored all the rank and file players who were average players and protected the steroid abusers, which predominantly were a lot of the players making the highest players. This put players with average ability in the position of having to choose to use or no longer be able to compete on the playing field. I am sure a lot of good people made bad choices as a result of Fehr’s negligence and allegiance to the Mark McGwire’s and Barry Bonds of the sport. On top of this there are a lot of good players who now have to be accused on a daily basis because of Fehr’s adherence to protecting the cheaters and hurting the players in his own union playing it straight. You brought up Rick Helling, who as far as I can tell a class act. Why was he essentially ignored by Fehr. Fehr is supposed to represent ALL of the players. From the Ed Romeros to the Barry Bonds of the game. Not just the top echelon of players. He put revenue over the health of the players within the union.

  19. Marc Goldman permalink
    June 23, 2009 9:58 pm

    Schill said. “It’s Donald Fehr’s fault that we players stood in front of Congress and either lied our asses off or didn’t ’speak our minds’ about the catastrophic and illegal conditions we players willingly chose to work within?”

    YES.The MLBPA made drug testing an issue at the table, they didn’t come to the table and say protect the majority of MLB and minor league players who are not using PEDs with an aggressive drug testing and suspension policy, In fact they did just the opposite.

    Come on G38 you are making an case that has clay fleet. For all the owners looked the other way, the MLBPA fought any testing, any penalty and this created an environment where men were tempted to get an edge that would create fabulous wealth.

    The MLBPA fought any testing for years and who led the MLBPA? He allowed the interests of cheaters making mega bucks and running up the salary index for all to trump the interests of the borderline player. Because while guys like Bonds and McGuire and Clemens and Ramirez draw head lines you know it is the borderline guys who are cheating their clean minor league counter parts out of MLB jobs.

    Fehr did a great job getting players their piece of the pie. You should be grateful, he helped negotiated a market that made you fabulously wealthy relative to the general population though your drive and talent earned it.

    But he is as much an enabler as anyone in the industry if not more so in creating this steroid era. It served the owners well but it served the elite in the MLBPA even more.

    As as it made the rank and file more money, Fehr was with the program. And “roids” made the industry all the richer, Crash Davis be damned.

    And let’s not even begin to talk about how freakin’ stupid arbitration is as it works today.

    If I were a player in the last 20 years with the talent to have had an MLB career I’d love this guy too but his place in history will be mixed at best. He was a happy enabler of the steroid era and the owners who always had bigger $$$ issues were only to happy to look the other way and argue issues like salry cap and revenue sharing.

    He will only be hero to those who he enriched and it wasn’t the fans of the game!

  20. Shindig permalink
    June 23, 2009 11:12 pm

    By no means do I believe Mr. Fehr is fully responsible for the steroid era. But doesn’t facilitating the steroid use through strong opposition to drug testing – be it by the directive of the players or not – burden him with some blame? There is no way the union needed to be so vehement in its fight against drug testing. And, while I

    If the only excuse for Mr. Fehr is, to paraphrase, “he was only doing what he was told to do”, in my mind that is a sad indictment of the man. The players, fans, media and commissioner all share in the majority of the blame but I don’t see how the union can completely be absolved.

    As an aside, this is a quote from Senatior McCain directed at Donald Fehr:

    “Your failure to commit to addressing this issue straight on and immediately will motivate this committee to search for legislative remedies. I don’t know what they are. But I can tell you, and the players you represent, the status quo is not acceptable. And we will have to act in some way unless the major league players’ union acts in the affirmative and rapid fashion.”

    That, to my mind, says that the union is in some way responsible.

    Finally, if I can ask a question. You mentioned that the union was at the directive of the players. This means that the players would have opposed stringent drug testing. But did all players feel this way? Where was the voice representing those players who wanted a clamp down on steroid use?

  21. Jerry permalink
    June 24, 2009 12:14 am

    Dear Curt,

    First of all thanks for the memories. We are probably polar opposites politically, but you worked hard, were the consummate professional, and delivered in the clutch. For that thank you.

    As for Mr. Fehr I don’t understand how anyone harbors any ill will toward him. He had a job to do and as evidenced by player salaries alone he did it very well. Think the NFL guys would have liked to have him working for them?

    People get mad at the players earn, but so few fans understand the fact that the owners are the ones people should be annoyed with. Without the players there is no money, no game, no enjoyment for the fans. Why should the owners clean up off of the sweat of the players? Would people be happier if you earned $50K a year and had an off season job running a landscaping crew?

  22. Wayne permalink
    June 24, 2009 1:51 am

    Curt,

    I’d like to start this off with I am a life long Red Sox fan and Thanks for everything you have done for that organization. I wholeheartedly agree with this blog. People just don’t understand the way business is worked out. Fehr’s job was to look out 100% for the betterment of players’ situation. He did a great job of that, if anyone is going to complain about higher salaries you can chalk that up to simple economics. Which lead to higher overhead costs. These players who used PED’s made their decision, you can place the blame for it on who ever you want, but common sense would say that it was a decision based on individual incentives for higher salaries, which last time I checked Fehr wasn’t paying them.

    After reading many of these comments, many have a similarity about the fairness for athletes not using PED’s. My reaction to that is these men make there own decisions. If they choose not to use PED’s maybe they should’ve tried to push for stricter drug testing? Do you really believe that clean athletes cared if they had teammates were using PED’s if it was going to help their team win? Many things could have been done by the players themselves, it’s called whistle-blowing. Fehr was put in a situation where there was tremendous opportunity to higher salaries and make the life of the players better (which is what he was paid to do). In conclusion Fehr represented the players in NEGOTIATION, blame whoever you want for this but Fehr didn’t make the rules, he just did the best he could for the people he represented. If there was an outcry from the players for stricter drug tests then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    Thanks,
    Wayne

  23. Chris Dahl permalink
    June 24, 2009 7:39 am

    Curt,

    Well put. Any American who is subject to drug-testing in the workplace should be thankful to union leaders like Don, who are the only people insisting that fairness and a consideration for workers’ Constitutional rights shouldn’t be overlooked in the process.

    Hope you’re doing well.

  24. dave permalink
    June 24, 2009 8:39 am

    Curt,
    You ought to leave the subject of steroids alone, you have zero credibility on this issue. You had the opportunity before Congress to backup the previous strong statements you had made regarding steroids and you failed to do so. Regarding Donald Fehr, he is no more to blame than anyone else in the game of Baseball. For the last twenty years or more there has clearly been a culture in the game in which everybody (including yourself) was prepared to turn a blind eye to what was happening. Everybody was happy, owners with the huge increase in revenues, players with the equally large increase in salaries and the media with increased ratings and sales of newspapers and magazines. To quote a certain football coach “it is what it is”. But please do us all a favor and stop trying to pretend it was simply a decision made by individual players! It was the culture of the game, you knew about it, everybody knew about and were prepared to accept it as long as the money, the fame and the glory kept rolling in. The fans are adults we can deal with truth, but what we cannot deal with is people like yourself constantly insulting our intelligence with this nonsense.

  25. Brad Creamer permalink
    June 24, 2009 8:51 am

    Baseball (and all professional sports) is a business. The purpose of running a business is to make a profit. It was when business owners practically bled their workers to death that unions came in to existence. I spent a career in broadcasting and watched several negotiations between station management and our union rep. Negotiations are basically one side (management) offering the least possible to maintain the highest possible profit and labor (the workers) trying to get a higher percentage of that profit. Liked by the general public or not – it is the job of the union negotiator to represent his clients not babysit them. The rep is not paid for the players (workers) morality. All the rep has to do is get the most he can for his clients (guaranteed contracts etc.in this case) and cede the least that he can. It is up to the union members to say yea or nay on the final outcome.

    The role of unions has changed drastically since the days of worker suppression. A good deal of us (the general public) now look with disdain towards both management and unions. Fair deals are good. Greed is not good. It is the greed of both sides that keeps me in my favorite seat to watch a professional game and that seat is my chair in my living room because that’s what I can afford.

    I find in abhorrent when I hear a pro athlete cry poor over a multimillion dollar contract offer. “They don’t respect me” and “I have to feed my family” crawl up the back of my eyeballs when I think of their salaries compared to mine.

    So it’s not just the fault of Donald Fehr or his replacement. It is the fault of both management AND the player’s union. However I think the biggest fault may lie with us, the fans, for continuing to pay exorbitant prices to see a game and for buying merchandise that sends more money into the league’s pockets. So much of the blame is on us – the fans.

    Of course OUR teams tug on our heart strings because we are fans so we’ll continue going to games and wearing our favorite players jersey. The few hours we spend watching and rooting take us away from the harsh realities of our lives and lets us live those dreams of ours that never came true because we weren’t blessed with the talent we see before us on the field or court. Man, those guys are good.

    I love baseball. My grandfather played semi-pro back in the 10s and 20s. I have his glove and one of his bats. I still go to baseball games. I see some of the best talent in the country and all it costs me is a few dollars into the voluntary jar. I’m only a short distance from Bourne, MA so I go watch the Bourne Braves. If you ever get to vacation on Cape Cod you have to take in a Cape League game. The kids aren’t spoiled by money and agents – yet. Sure most of them have aspirations but right now they play because they love the game. Keep you program so you can see when some of those players reach the bigs. When they get there it won’t be the job of the the player’s union rep, whoever that might be, to babysit them. His job will be the same as that of Donald Fehr – to get the most for his clients he can and give up the least. It is the job of the owners to not cave in to some of the outrageous concessions they have made over the years. The only losers in all of this is us – the loyal fans.

  26. Steve permalink
    June 24, 2009 9:03 am

    Someone’s to blame when I can’t take my kids to a game except once a year, and I have to go on half price night to make it affordable. Fehr, the owners, the greedy players including you Mr. Shilling, the commissioner have all led to this situation. Your greed is what is ruining baseball for the common fan.

  27. Chris Fiorentino permalink
    June 24, 2009 11:26 am

    Curt, I agree that Donald Fehr was GREAT for baseball players, which was his job. However, he was TERRIBLE for the sport, but that wasn’t necessarily his job, was it?

    I completely understand why you would thank him. Because of him, you made alot more cash than you would have with a incompetent Union leader. However, as a fan, I can say he was HORRIBLE for baseball because he never once tried to get the Union to agree to drug testing, fighting it every step of the way. He never once told the members of the union, the union of which he was the leader, how dangerous drug usage was. How much they were hurting their bodies. He could have…but he DIDN’T. He told them EVERYTHING THEY WANTED TO HEAR. He told them…the more HR’s you hit, the more money you will be able to squeeze out of the owners. He told them, IMPLICITLY, to take all the steroids you need to hit the ball very far. You will argue that he never said that, but by NEVER SAYING THE OPPOSITE, he might as well have said it.

    All of that being said, Bud Selig and the owners are more at fault at what has happened to baseball than 100 Donald Fehrs. But let’s not canonize Fehr as somebody who took into account the best interest of Baseball. Like Scott Borass and many of the scumbag agents like him, he is only out to make the most money for his clients, the effect on baseball be damned!!!!

  28. June 24, 2009 12:13 pm

    Before Mr. Fehr I could afford to take my family to more than one game per year, if that.

    Decent seats at Camden Yard are $40 per. You add in parking, a hotdog and a couple of flat beers and I am at $200+ for a family of four for one ballgame. Multiply that by 82 games and 4 season season tickets are a $16,000 committment. With median household income in the state of $68,000 those tickets reflect a 23% share of the pre-tax income or nearly 36% after tax.

    The freemarketeer in me fully comprehends that market forces are at play and that some people can afford those tickets on a regular basis. Were that not the case the seats would not sell.

    It is almost like the real estate bubble: call it the sports ticket bubble. The distance between play and fan has become a gulf between the two with the blue collar / white collar work-a-day guy paying to see a field full of millionaires play a game. I guess I should remind myself that it is, after all, just a game.

    Maybe I am a “glass half full” kind of guy: but the financial structure of MLB reminds me of the tech and housing bubble. The average fan is carrying millionaires on his back – the only difference is that Congress will never step in to bail out the fan.

    Regards,
    T.J.

  29. Matty K. permalink
    June 24, 2009 1:42 pm

    What’s up Schil!

    While players who chose to take PED’s cannot blame anyone but themselves, I believe that the fact the owners have avoided any responsibility in the matter is ludicrous, as they stood to gain more financially than any other person or part of MLB. You point out that the players saw their “income rise by almost 600 percent” under Fehr, which is a whole lot of green. How about access to the owner’s income increase during this period? Should we assume that the owner’s were willing to take a hit in the “profit” column at the expense of the players? When Barry Bonds was being introduced as the “whipping post” for the PED Poster child (including you), I did some brief research on the SF Giants yearly fan attendance and how Bond’s effected it. The year Bonds arrived in SF, their attendance grew from 1.5 mil to 2.6 mil (73% increase in one year). SF saw their attendance break 3 mil. in 2000, peaking at 3.3 mil., and holding strong around 3.1-3.2 throughout 2007 when Bonds retired. SF saw their attendance dip below 3 mil in 2008, and is on pace to see their lowest attendance since 2000. Through out Bond’s career, SF saw attendance grow by 120%, sitting in the top 5 for most of this period. Bond’s breaks the HR record, and baseball couldn’t get him out of Giants uniform quick enough. Why was this? Was it because he disgraced baseball or was it because the owner’s were no longer going to be able to cash in on him as they had done for the previous 10-15 years? To me, this is the ultimate disgrace to the game of baseball.

  30. June 24, 2009 3:52 pm

    I am with Curt on this. As a TU rep for years I used to hate the way the Unions leaders and officers always took the path of least resistance. We made it policy to deal with all business at as low a level as possible and keep them out – doubled membership and more as a result. The point being I’d never critque someone for doing as they were told and wish more union men did.

    The point with Fehr is this people seem to expect him to have insisted and delivered on something: few of his members were asking for: the owners were not exactly demanding – at least not with any stress. Honestly on drug testing you have to accept it was not his job to deliver it and no one was asking for it. To blame a union leader for not delivering what neither management/ownership nor the players were asking for is nonsensical.

    Selig/MLB never asked for an early end to the steroids era pre-Balco/Bonds. If someone who has the best interests of the game in his contract did nothing why crack the Union’s Lawyer?

  31. Tom permalink
    June 24, 2009 4:47 pm

    Don Fehr is a great man, and he was great at his job. No, he did not try to maintain a “zero punishment” policy for steroids, that is complete bullshit.
    None of the blame should go on Fehr for the steroid era, these things happened without his control. If you accuse him of anything, its jsimply that he could have gotten staretd much earlier, and he even admits that was his biggest mistake. But hey, look, people are getting caught now, the people that were the prevalent juicers earlier in the game are being revealed.
    Keep in mind people, he’s been doing what his JOB is. his JOB is to fight for players’ rights, and if you don’t like the job he’s done, you just dislike what the players wanted, and not what HE wanted. Check out Howard Bryant’s article on ESPN.com/mlb about Fehr, its a great read.

  32. Matt permalink
    June 24, 2009 11:51 pm

    Brad C.,
    That is probably the most intelligent post on the topic that will be placed here.
    To everyone pissing and moaning about the prices you have to pay now: either pay it or don’t go. Apparantly, there are tons of people who are willing to pay, because the salaries aren’t changing. If the monetary situation with baseball was nearly as bad as the owners would have you believe it is, they would have no choice but to not agree to the players demands. The owners stuck it to the players for so long and denied them basic employment rights for so long that it was only a matter of time before this type of situation arose.
    Curt got paid a lot of money to play baseball, yes. But how much do you think he earned back for the team? Apparantly a lot more than they gave him, because no intelligent business owner aims to break even. It’s a billion dollar industry, and I see no issue at all with trying to earn a fair monetary return on your economic value for the business that employs you. It’s pure capitalism.
    If you can’t afford to go to the game, then unfortunately you can’t afford to go. The market sets the rate, and you aren’t in the market. Watch it at home.

  33. Bill permalink
    June 25, 2009 8:39 am

    I’ve skimmed the comments, so apologies for what is sure to be some repetition.

    1. Players (and Mr. Fehr) aren’t responsible for the rise in ticket prices. The owners would have raised prices to whatever level fans were willing to pay – they just would have kept more money for themselves. So, instead of blaming either side, blame your fellow fans who are willing to fork the money over. If more people stayed home, prices would level or go down. Kudos to Mr. Fehr for getting players their fair share.

    2. The great crime of steroids isn’t that hallowed records were broken – although those are the easy headlines. The crime is the minor league player that never makes it because someone less talented cheats and isn’t stopped. This is Mr. Fehr’s failure to players. NFL players have a ridiculously short average life span given how athletic and “fit” they must be to play their sport. Much of that is attributed to the violence of the sport, but surely some of that is because of steroid (and other performance drug) use. When the baseball players of this era start dying younger than their predecessors, then we’ll see how much Mr. Fehr is lauded by his union.

  34. PapiFan permalink
    June 25, 2009 9:01 am

    Curt, On another subject. How the heck is Luis Tiant not a hall of famer if Jim Bunning is one?? Makes no sense. El Tiante was also a better big game pitcher. Bunning had him in K’s, and by 3/100 of a point in ERA, but Tiant has a better won/lost percentage, more wins, and more shutouts.

    Also CHB, better have you on his ballot for the HOF. You are a first ballot HOF, in my mind. In fact in a big game, I would take you over Randy, Tom, Roger, and Greg. Cumulative wins is so overrated. I just hoped you don’t get screwed like Luis has.

  35. June 27, 2009 1:04 am

    Poetic justice, thats what I call Fehr’s

    “mishandling of those 2003 results”

    “malfeasance with a direct negative impact”

    You would not have linked this article if you were not on some level
    in agreement with Mr. Sheridan.

    Only union bullies like Donald Fehr get a pass on matters of morality, integrity & ethics.

  36. sdl1 permalink
    June 27, 2009 9:02 am

    Using Sheridan’s “logic,” you can also say that it was Marvin Miller’s fault that Denny McLain was suspended for gambling.

    Nobody can blame Fehr for what has happened. Can *anybody* watch a player 24-7? He cannot be blamed for Manny & Canseco anymore than you or I can.

  37. June 27, 2009 11:32 pm

    I remember talking about this on my forum.

    Great website, I look forward to reading it some more.

  38. Dave D permalink
    June 28, 2009 10:26 am

    Curt,
    Thank you for your comments. I enjoy your blog and your contribution to the Sox. Past that however, I must respectfully disagree – I can only imagine the money your Union Boss made from the gains he secured for MLBPA – you are a part of the wealthieast Union in the world – I do not know how much money he made from his compliance to the wishes of your Union – but it had to be sweet. I tip my hat to him as the greatest modern labor advocate – certainly a creative genius. A man who is a great closer – he protected the lead he created. Yet, if I recall correctly you are fond of qouting Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing”. …So, there is a dark side to the success. The Union and Fehr along with the Owners(collectively) kept their mouths’ shut because you were profiting at a record number. In your moral code is this not a sin? He is part of a huge Drug Ring and the leader of one of the greatest money laundering schemes in history. And, all the members of MLBPA during the Steroids Era are nothing more than his mafioso. Congrats – you are rich beyond your wildest dreams but you jettisoned your morals in the process. Drugs and money laundering – who ever imagined America’s pastime would degenerate to such a base level?

  39. Barry McCocinher permalink
    June 28, 2009 9:57 pm

    I am just glad Curt didnt bring up politics.

  40. will answer permalink
    June 30, 2009 6:12 pm

    I agree with Phil Sheridan’s column. Donald Fehr knew that bigger and greater statistical numbers meant more money for the players. Steroids helped players achieve better stats. Fehr could care less about the fans or the integrity of the game of baseball. In that regard, he is much like Scott Boras – screw the game, screw the fans, just show me the money. I don’t blame Curt Schilling for liking Fehr, he was a benefactor of Fehr’s greedy, selfish decisions.

  41. Dan permalink
    July 1, 2009 5:13 pm

    Curt, I agree you should be thanking Don Fehr because without him you wouldn’t have been able to make 8 mil last year without throwing a pitch. The MLB union is the strongest of it’s kind because of Donald Fehr and for players thats great, but understand that the game has changed in a negative way while he was in charge of the union, and if his salary didn’t go up with yours some things might have been different.

  42. July 1, 2009 6:44 pm

    Curt, I agree and disagree.

    In the end, Fehr was running a union. In the end it became one of the highest paid unions in the world. No one likes unions except for people IN unions, and even then it is only a portion of them.

    Fehr knew what he was stepping into, what he was doing all along, and how it would end. He just wanted to make it in the time he had in the position.

    Obviously his part was only so big as in reality, not a lot of people were talking about this guy before he announced his retirement. It’s his position and the actions and non-actions he committed along with the title in the first place that led to his lifelong legacy.

  43. Peter permalink
    July 2, 2009 12:40 pm

    Hi Curt,

    I think you are absolutely right to refute the blame the use of steriods on the Union Chief. The whole steriod era is a collective failure of the players, owners and fans. It is a total waste of energy and resources to say who did what and what degree they are compromised. If people broke the law and can be prosecuted, then let that legal process progress.

    I do think the players have a strong Professional Union and they are responsible for establishing the standards and policing their own, because the owners will only do what makes the media and public policy makers content. The Union is predicated on the health and welfare of the members and this body should be in the forefront in protecting their own, even from the owners penchant to throw high salaries for the great numbers. The concept of personal accountability is so often overlooked, but the union should set the consequences for violating the professional standards to give weight to the choices the players make.

  44. Bob Rishar permalink
    July 5, 2009 1:27 pm

    Bud Selig’s quote-

    “Starting in 1995, I tried to institute a steroid policy,” Selig told Newsday. “Needless to say, it was met with strong resistance. We were fought by the union every step of the way.”

    And Curt says-

    “Donald Fehr, Thank You.”

  45. Mat permalink
    July 6, 2009 12:10 pm

    Are you kidding me. Selig is a moron! He ALWAYS comes out with his comments after the issue has been exposed. He has always been reactive rather than proactive. We will NEVER know what really was said in their meetings but to blame the union head is as crazy as blaming the economy of our country on any one President. Too much going my freind.

  46. Brian permalink
    July 6, 2009 3:03 pm

    Schill,

    Like many of the people who made comments before me, I commend you for taking responsibility for the actions of the players. Each player who chose to take steroids, and I know you were not one of them, did so as an adult, free to make his own choices. That being said, you make a good point Donald Fehr worked for the players. However, he worked for all the players, not just the juiced up guys he protected from being tested. He worked for the guys who got to the show in their talent, hard work, and determination. He owed it to them to look out for them. Drug testing would have benefited that player. I hate to bring up specific guys because God knows anyone of them could have been juicing, but Fher owed the Craig Biggios and the Trot Nixon’s of the world(the Curt Schillings of the world for that matter). Guys who simply played hard and with integrity. His job was to look out for the well being of the players, and too many people think that simply means money. I would raise another example of where he came up short. Arod wanted to come to Boston, and he was willing to give up money to do so. Playing Boston, where he had a chance to win would have made him a happier person. Isn’t being happy in his best interest? Yet, the union blocked the move because he would have had to give up money to make it work. I think this move shows that Donald Fehr believed that making the players more money was his only job. Don’t get me wrong. That is part of it, and he should be commended for what he accomplished in that regard. Clearly, in previous generations, the owners treated the players unfairly and took advantage of their exempt status. However, Donald Fehr did you and all the other players a disservice by fighting drug testing in baseball.

  47. PerryC permalink
    July 6, 2009 4:11 pm

    Curt,

    It is no surprise to me that you are willing to stand up and accept responsibility. Thanks. (I hope you don’t overly regret how you handled your Congressional appearance. It was a tough position to be in.)

    If Donald Fehr wasn’t doing what the players wanted, they would have justifiably fired him.

    Peter said it well two messages upstream “The whole steriod era is a collective failure of the players, owners and fans.” However, he left out the media who also deserve blame.

    Blamestorming isn’t going to help us eliminate the shadow that has been case over a whole era, however. What to do next is a topic for another thread, but we can start by not castigating men like Donald Fehr.

  48. DeniseSoxFan permalink
    July 8, 2009 7:04 am

    Hey Curt! How about Wakefield going to the All-Star game!!! What are your thoughts?
    Denise

  49. Tru permalink
    July 8, 2009 8:07 am

    I’m wondering here, Curt. How did Fehr respond to the pressure of instituting changes in the CBA where drug policy was involved? If what you say is true, that Fehr reflects the wishes of his constituents, did he not breach the premise of protecting them?

    Surely Fehr, as did you, and Rick and the owners and players know what was happening inside the sport. Fehr knew what was going on. And so did AirBud.

    Your blog mocks and insults the fans intelligence indirectly. As baseballs sailed over fences, pitchers were extending their careers, and players appeared larger and immune to injury, the sport experienced growth and change like no other time in its history. The inflated contracts came as result of inflated performers.

    While you laud Fehr for his many accomplishments, you also need to assign some fault; recently for his failure to protect some players who were promised no reprisals and complete privacy in testing for PEDS six years ago. He failed to protect the players by not persuading them to the risk and danger of PEDS, but instead saw the enrichment of his constituents because of them. Fehr had to know that by refusing to engage in real dialog about drug policies, it would some day come back to hurt the very people he was supposed to represent. He was a front and a participant.

    I’m wondering also about the stories from players, years ago, at spring training that circulated in the press about union representatives, some of them doctors, who suggested that if a player was going to use illegal substances, they should at least know something about them. Did that really happen, and if it did, where was Fehr?

    At the end of the day, from where I sit, the sham that baseball has become, does not exempt Donald Fehr. He was, IMO a willing participant.

  50. Bob Rishar permalink
    July 13, 2009 8:57 pm

    Hey Mat believe me I am with you regarding Bud “Attendance is up” Selig being a moron-but the point I was trying to make is that by thanking Donald Fehr, Curt comes across as pretty moronic himself-it would be the same to me as if he had thanked Selig for his role in this mess.
    If you look at Curt’s comments about steroids over the years it’s tough to commend Curt on anything he did or didn’t say about an issue that was happening all around him. Now when you factor in Curt’s history of speaking out about almost anything, his track record on this issue becomes downright repulsive and even suspicious. I would have more respect for Curt if he were to publicly apologize to Jose Canseco for calling him a liar. Of all the players that day in front of congress, Jose still seems to be the only man in the bunch-if you believe that part of being a man is telling the truth. Funny how Curt admires heroes but yet chickened out when he had his chance to be one.
    Dave hit the nail on the head when he said about Curt-
    “You ought to leave the subject of steroids alone, you have zero credibility on this issue. You had the opportunity before Congress to backup the previous strong statements you had made regarding steroids and you failed to do so.”
    The record proves it. Now if Curt would only own up to it instead of thanking one of his accomplices.

  51. Dave McGrath permalink
    July 13, 2009 9:42 pm

    Curt,
    Most of the time I truely enjoy your blog entries and usualy I have no reason to comment. However, this one is one I feel strongly that I do.
    Mr. Fehr was in a leadership position. You are totally correct in saying that at no time did he force an adut grown man to inject himself with an illegal substance. I feel that an issue that is continually overlooked is the fact that without a valid prescription, the use of steroids is illegal. Simply because one is a Major League ball player does not mean that their personal desire superceeds the law the rest of are supposed to abide by.
    Mr. Ferh, in his leadership role simply cannot blame ignorance for this. He had to know what was going on in some way, shape or form because of his continued reluctance to push for comprehensive drug testing.
    As a player, I feel that your view is somewhat slanted as well as it should be. You made alot of money playing a game that you were exceptional at. I applaud your outspoken nature on the many subjects that you address here and on WEEI. However, I feel that you are either being nieve or coy for not calling out Mr. Ferh on some of his faults namely, not forcing the issue of comprehensive drug testing for the game the you obviously love as a player and I do as a fan.
    With leadership comes responsibility and sometimes that responsibility forces one to make decisions that may not be popular at the time the decision is made. Again, a strong leader has to be a forward thinker, contemplating the possibilitie of action versus non-action. In the case of Mr. Ferh’s lack of leadership on this issue, the scandel plagued performance enhancing drug era may be that lasting legacy of Mr. Ferh.
    Thanks for reading this and I would certainly enjy disussing the subject of leadership further.
    Dave McGrath

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Curt Schilling's Official Blog

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