On a conference call on Monday, Donald Fehr announced to all 30 Major League teams that he was exercising his “nine-month notification” clause in his contract and thus be replaced by union general counsel Michael Weiner, pending approval of the unions executive board.
“It has been a high privilege to be entrusted with the leadership of this extraordinary union for the last 25 years, and I am enormously proud of what the players have accomplished during that time,” Fehr said in a statement. “But now, about two years before the next round of collective bargaining, is the right time for me to relinquish my position and for the players to name new leadership. Accordingly, I have informed members of the executive board that I will resign effective no later than next March 31.”
In Fehrs term he has served through 3 work stoppages, a two-day midseason strike in 1985, a 32-day Spring Training lockout in 1990, and the 1994-95 strike that wiped out the ’94 postseason and delayed and shortened the ’95 season. Though those were trying times, the hardwork did payoff and the fans of the game were able to see the positives of a very dark time in the game. “For more than 25 years, Don has represented his constituency with passion, loyalty and great diligence,” Bud Selig said. “Although we have had our differences, I have always respected his role. “In recent years, we have worked together to find common ground for the betterment of the game, which will have resulted in 16 years of unprecedented labor peace by the end of our current collective bargaining agreement. We hope to continue to build upon the game’s prosperity as we work with the new leadership of the Players Association. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I wish Don great health and success in the future.”
Though Fehr’s retirement has come to a shock to some, Florida Marlins player representative Wes Helms notes that the present day player has been taken care of exceptionally well over the years and a lot of that is owed to Fehr’s contributions. “We are set up for the future,” Helms said. “We’ve built a foundation where we’ve basically been taken care of. Don has been a great contributor to that. He’s done exceptionally well. I think all the players in the game today owe him a lot. We’ve been taken care of very well.”
Under Fehr’s leadership, the average players salary has risen from $289,000 in 1983 to more than $3.3 million in 2008. When Marvin Miller was head of the union in 1966, the average salary was $19,000. “I thought he worked very hard for us,” said former Major League pitcher and broadcaster Orel Hershiser. “I thought he was a good listener. As skilled as he was as a negotiator, his real skill was keeping things together and not panicking when things got tough.” “Unfairly, people look at him negatively,” added San Francisco Giants outfielder and player rep Randy Winn. “Whenever he’s on TV, he’s talking about a possible work stoppage or the bargaining agreement. But I think he’s a fan of baseball and has done a lot for the game.”
The game will move on without Fehr, his replacement, Michael Weiner has been by his side for the past 20 years. “Michael 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. “He is clearly the most qualified person to become the next Executive Director and carry on the work of the Players Association in the years to come.”
Weiner who is a graduate of Harvard Law School, has been a part of the Players Association since 1988. He has also been staff counsel with his main responsibility being administering and enforcing the Basic Agreement, for more than 10 years. He was named general counsel in 2004 and he been in charge of all the legal matters that involve the Players Association.
Many people have said the Fehr’s objective was the players and nothing else, not the game, and not ownership. “Whatever was best for the players,” Tony La Russa said. “The priority is not the ownership and it’s not the game. It’s making the membership happy. … It will be interesting. I heard that Fehr has said that mistakes were made during the steroid time. I’m glad he said that. It’s true.”
In conclusion to the above-mentioned statement, with increasing pressure from the US Congress, and the players themselves, a landmark Joint Drug Agreement was instilled, in which testing for performance-enhancing drugs started. The current agreement has been amended three time since its inception, most recently in 2008 to include more frequent testing with more substantial penalties.
Devon Teeple is an author for the Business of Sports Network, which includes the Biz of Baseball, the Biz of Football, the Biz of Basketball and the Biz of Hockey. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Devon is a former student within Sports Management Worldwide’s Baseball General Manager Class. Devon is the founder of The GM’s Perspective and is a intern with The Football Outsiders and contributor with the Plymouth River Eels.