Tears For Fehr: MLBPA Union Chief Steps Down

For the last quarter century, there’s been probably no greater figure in sports labor management than Donald Fehr, the head of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association and overseer of several momentous labor deals.

Donald Fehr
(Fehr, seen here at the Congressional steroid hearings admiring his outstanding ballpoint sketch of FDR proclaiming “The only thing we have to fear is Fehr himself.”)

As MLB.COM reports, though, the 60-year-old has decided to step down after 25 years at the helm of the MLBPA, however, citing an unwillingness to get involved in what promises to be yet another contentious collective bargaining agreement. Fortunately for us, however, he leaves us with one last opportunity for sophomoric jokes. 

Fehr will be replaced by general counsel Michael Weiner, pending approval of the union’s executive board.

That’s (snicker) logical, since before being named executive director in 1985, Fehr himself was general counsel for the NBA just like Weiner (giggle). Oh, yes, Donald, you have more to say about Weiner?

“[Weiner] has been at my side during all the battles we have fought over the last 20 years and has been a major part of our successes,” Fehr said.

Baaahahahaha! At your side? That’s not where it’s supposed to go!

Okay, now that that’s out of our system, we can talk about Fehr’s legacy. On one hand, he has presided over three work stoppages, though one was two days long and in 1985, hardly a legacy-maker. The labor-dispute-turned-lockout that canceled the  1995 1994 World Series, however, is a major blight on his record, to say nothing of the MLBPA’s stonewalling on the steroid issue as baseball reaped the rewards of such since-tarnished superstars as Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, and now even A-Rod and Manny Ramirez.

Whether the recent steady drip of leaks in steroids-related cases has influenced Fehr’s decision to step down isn’t immediately clear; he didn’t mention anything about it at the time, but if they did, well, we’ll probably end up hearing about it sooner or later, don’t you think?

At the same time, even adjusting for inflation, players’ salaries rose over 100% under Fehr’s watch, and for better or worse, things like fully guaranteed contracts and the absence of a salary cap have made the MLB much more superstar-friendly than, say, the NFL.

And while the debate can rage on about whether a professional league should cater more to parity or its major moneymaking franchises, that wasn’t Fehr’s job. Fehr’s job was to look out for the best interests of the union of baseball players, and at the end of the day, it seems like that’s been accomplished.

Now, pending executive approval… it’s Weiner Time.