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.

Yu Darvish will report to spring training on time, hopes to begin mound work in March

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.

His rehab so far has gone on without issue.

Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …

Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.

Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.

Masahiro Tanaka throws off mound for first time since October elbow surgery

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According to the Associated Press — via Chad Jennings of The Journal News — Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing a cleanup procedure on his right elbow last October.

The throwing session took place in New York, and Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild later told the media in Tampa that all of the reports he heard were good.

Tanaka might be behind some of the Yankees’ other pitchers when spring training officially begins, but he should be ready for the start of the 2016 regular season.

The 27-year-old native of Japan posted a 3.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 139/27 K/BB ratio across 154 innings last season for New York. He owns a 3.16 ERA (123 ERA+) in 290 1/3 innings since becoming a major leaguer in 2014.

Tanaka is still pitching with a partially-torn ligament in his right elbow that could eventually require Tommy John reconstructive surgery. His surgery last October was of the arthroscopic variety and simply removed bone spurs.

Bud Selig to teach a class at Arizona State law school

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Before Bud Selig ultimately retired, he had a couple of false start retirement announcements only to have the owners beg him to sign on for one more term. In one of those false starts he talked about how the University of Wisconsin had set up an office for him in the history department and that he’d be doing some research and teaching a class now and again. And he has, in fact, taught some one-off seminars at Wisconsin’s law school and the like.

Now something a little more permanent along those lines is in the works for The Greatest Commissioner in Baseball History. The Arizona Republic reports that Selig will join the Sports Law and Business program at Arizona State University’s law school where he will teach and advise as well as start up a speakers series in which he will bring in high-powered guests. No word on how many speakers will talk about big, important historical sports law cases like, say collusion in baseball, which was orchestrated by an ownership class in the mid-to-late 80s, of which Bud Selig was far and away the most influential member. That could get sort of awkward, I suppose.

Either way, it’s a good way to keep busy. I mean, that’s what it has to be as he’s not hurting for cash, what with the obscene $6 million severance package the owners gave him to, I dunno, not give interviews about bad stuff that happened back in the day like Fay Vincent does all the time. Stuff like collusion. Maybe he gets the $6 million for some other purpose. Who can say, really? It’s never made any sort of sense otherwise.

Anyway, good luck in Tempe, Bud. Maybe I’ll stop by your office at ASU when I’m there next month — I always stay in Tempe — and we can chew the fat or climb that butte with the big A on it or something. First round at Four Peaks afterward is on me.

White Sox sign first baseman Travis Ishikawa

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First baseman Travis Ishikawa has agreed to a minor-league contract with the White Sox that includes an invitation to spring training.

Ishikawa was previously reported to have a minor-league deal with the Mariners last month, but the signing was never finalized. Now he joins the White Sox, who have Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche ahead of him on the first base/designated hitter depth chart.

Ishikawa had some big moments for the Giants in the 2014 playoffs, but he’s a 32-year-old journeyman with a lifetime .255 batting average and .712 OPS in 488 games as a big leaguer.

It’s possible the White Sox could keep him around as a bench bat and backup first baseman/left fielder, but Ishikawa seems more likely to begin the season at Triple-A.