Donald Fehr to step down

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ESPN is reporting that MLBPA honcho Don Fehr is stepping down:

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.

Let’s be clear here: Don Fehr is not a popular man. Indeed, he’s the
only guy the baseball-loving public holds in lower esteem than Bud
Selig, and that really takes some doing. He has been blamed for
everything bad that has happened in baseball since 1985, be it the
1994-95 lockout, the steroids mess, huge player salaries, baggy pants,
gold chains and everything else that differentiates baseball of today
from the baseball of yesterday.

The thing about him, though, is that the only people he cares about —
the players whose interests he represents — owe just about everything good
that has happened to them in that time to him as well. Those things
include his handling of the 1994-95 lockout, the huge salaries, their
right to wear baggy pants and gold chains and just about everything
else that differentiates baseball of today from the baseball of
yesterday. The point here is that no matter how much you hate him, Don
Fehr had one job to do and that was to make life better for the
players. He did that in spades. A rookie made $60,000 a year when Fehr
took over and the game’s biggest stars made around $2 million. Today
they’re making ten times what they made back then. More importantly,
back in 1985 the owners seemed to believe that they could break the law
and collude against players, tear up the Collective Bargaining
Agreement when it suited them, and generally try to run roughshod over
players’ rights. That garbage stopped under Fehr’s leadership, and you
can bet that the players are grateful for it.

The big exception here is PEDs. Here is where, in my view anyway,
Fehr’s instincts to fight tooth-and-nail against ownership ultimately
did the union’s membership a disservice. Yes, many were responsible for
the steroids mess, but it took Fehr too long to recognize that, unlike
your usual labor stuff, there were competing interests within union
membership on the issue of PEDs and a strong public interest in the
subject as well. Fehr ignored that for far too long, which had the
effect of throwing both users and non-users under the public relations
bus. My sense is that almost everything you’ll read about this in the
coming days will greatly overplay his handling of steroids and greatly
underplay his accomplishments (stuff like this), but it’s not like we can ignore that aspect of his job performance either.

According to the article, the union’s general counsel will be taking
over, so you can assume that there will be little change in the union’s
approach going forward. But regardless of the continuity of it all,
Donald Fehr’s departure leave eaves some pretty large shoes to fill.

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.

U.S. blanks Puerto Rico 8-0 to win first World Baseball Classic title

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The United States handed Puerto Rico its first loss in the World Baseball Classic, winning 8-0 for its first title in the fourth iteration of the tournament.

Puerto Rico starter Seth Lugo was matching Marcus Stroman zero-for-zero through the first two innings, but the U.S. broke out for a pair of runs when Ian Kinsler deposited a two-run home run just beyond the fence in left-center at Dodger Stadium. The U.S. tacked on two more in the fifth on RBI singles from Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Meanwhile, Stroman was dealing. The right-hander, normally seen in a Blue Jays uniform, held Puerto Rico hitless through his first six innings, giving up just a lone walk. The U.S. put together a long rally in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits, two walks, and a hit batter. Stroman came back out for the seventh but immediately served up a double down the left field line to Angel Pagan. U.S. manager Jim Leyland immediately lifted Stroman from the game, bringing in Sam Dyson who escaped the inning without any further damage.

Pat Neshek allowed a leadoff single to Yadier Molina to begin the eighth, but induced a double-play, then worked around a two-out walk by striking out Kenny Vargas to end the frame.

In the ninth, David Robertson took over. He induced an infield pop-up from Enrique Hernandez. After Pagan singled up the middle, Francisco Lindor sharply grounded out to Eric Hosmer at first base for the second out. Finally, Robertson closed it out, inducing Carlos Correa to ground out to third base, making the U.S. 8-0 victors over Puerto Rico to win the World Baseball Classic.

Puerto Rico had an admirable run, defeating Venezuela, Mexico, and Italy to get out of Pool D undefeated. Then, in Pool F, it beat Venezuela again as well as the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to move to the semifinals. It narrowly edged Netherlands 4-3 in the semifinals to get into the finals.

The U.S. lost to the D.R. but beat Canada and Colombia to get out of Pool C. In Pool F, the U.S. lost to Puerto Rico and defeated the D.R again as well as Venezuela. The U.S. took down Japan in the semifinals to advance to the finals to play Puerto Rico.

The U.S. joins Japan (twice, 2006 and ’09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) as countries to win the World Baseball Classic. The 2017 tournament was a rousing success, setting attendance records, drawing over one million fans to ballparks to take in the games. It will hopefully encourage commissioner Rob Manfred and others to make a concerted effort to make the 2021 tournament bigger and better.