Don Fehr is stepping down as executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, a position he’s held since the mid-1980s, a source tells ESPN.
Fehr will be replaced by general counsel Michael Weiner, pending board approval, the source said. An announcement is expected to be made later on Monday afternoon.
Fehr, who will turn 61 in July, was voted in to lead the players’ union in December 1985.
Love him or hate him — and as the reaction starts to come out about this, be assured that it will run about 10% love, 90% hate — you can’t say the guy didn’t generally do a good job. In terms of working conditions and pay, baseball players are amazingly better off now than they were when he took over in 1985, and it was largely through Fehr’s leadership that the union was able to fend off ownership tactics which bordered on criminal at times, and which could have meant the end of the union if not successfully combatted. Here I’m talking about Collusions I, II and III and the 1994 lockout. If you want an example of how these episodes could have gone without better leadership, you need look no further than the NFL, whose union has repeatedly rolled over for ownership, and the umpires, who were absolutely destroyed by Selig and his friends.
The big exception here is PEDs, where Fehr’s instincts to fight tooth-and-nail against ownership ultimately did the union’s membership a disservice in my view. Yes, many were responsible for that mess, but it strikes me that it took Fehr too long to recognize that, unlike the often boring minutiae of the usual collective bargaining fodder, there were (a) competing interests within union membership on this issue; and (b) a strong public interest in its resolution. Fehr misread both of those things, and because of it, the players remain stuck in something of a P.R. nightmare and will for some time. I think that angle will be overplayed in the Fehr commentary that will follow in the coming days, but it’s not something that can be ignored either.
Finally, I note that the union’s general counsel will be taking over. That must mean that there will be an opening for general counsel. While I have no real labor law experience, my Exile post this morning establishes my familiarity with The Grapes of Wrath, so I do have something of a head start when it comes to issues facing working stiffs like fruit pickers and utility infielders and stuff. As such, I’d like anyone from the MLBPA who may be reading this to consider me an applicant for the job. If you must, I’ll provide a resume, but I prefer you just judge me by my firm handshake and my unwavering belief in my own abilities.
UPDATE: Via Pete Toms, here’s Rovell’s take. As I suspect, it’s all PEDs, no mention of the fact that a rookie made $60,000 a year when he took over and that the game’s biggest stars are now making ten times what they made back then. You may not like it, but that was a major part of Fehr’s mandate, and he did his job very very well.
(Thanks to Jason for the heads up)