News that baseball players union chief Donald Fehr plans to retire by next March won’t be greeted by sorrow in the executive offices and board rooms of the individual major league clubs. Over a 30-plus-year career with the players association, the last 25 as its leader, Fehr chiseled a reputation as a humorless, tough negotiator totally devoted to the people signing his paycheck, the ballplayers. That focus translated into a rise in the average player’s salary from $289,000 in 1983 to $2.9 million last year, according to the Associated Press. The players will be hard-pressed to get someone as hard-edged working for them after Fehr leaves.
The flip side to Fehr were player strikes, one of which wrecked the 1994 season and resulted in cancellation of the World Series that year. Fehr also spearheaded general player opposition to drug testing until 2002, which helped enable a long-running steroids scandal that will trouble baseball for years to come. Understandably, player salaries and their privacy rights were Fehr’s primary concern, not the game’s fans. As such the reviews on Fehr’s contributions are likely to be mixed.