Tuesday, June 23, 2009

First to Third: Fehr Steps Down, Ends an Era

After 25 years at the helm of the MLB Players' Association, Donald Fehr is stepping down. Sure, he has helped transform baseball into a multi-billion dollar industry, but Fehr's legacy will be tainted by two key events in baseball history: the 1994 players' strike and the steroid era.

Perhaps his shining moment as MLBPA Executive Director came in 1990, when Fehr and the union won $280 million in damages stemming from collusion allegations during the free agency period following the 1985-1987 seasons. Since then, however, it's hard to analyze Fehr's place in baseball history.

Fehr led the union through the 1994 strike, which resulted in the first World Series cancellation since 1904. Because of this strike, attendance dropped dramatically, television ratings fell and baseball popularity bottomed out until 1998 when a home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire reignited America's passion for baseball.

Since 1998, baseball has enjoyed enormous growth, financially and physically. Baseball players have grown in size and have put up inflated statistics over the last 10 years, forcing Fehr back to the bargaining table to ammend the drug testing portion of baseball's collective bargaining agreement after being cornered by Commissioner Bud Selig, Congress, and the American public. Some of baseball's biggest names have been associated with performance enhancing drugs and it's unclear how the union fits into the steroid era.

Like Selig, Fehr will always be linked to the steroid era and the 1994 strike and it will be interesting to see how baseball history views him in the coming years.

Be sure to stop back at 5pm when Tim Cedrone takes a look at Fehr's replacement, Michael Weiner.

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