A Night With Donald Fehr

Thursday, April 02, 2009

As I mentioned late yesterday afternoon, Donald Fehr the Executive Director of the MLBPA spoke at my MBA course last night. I figured I'd just give some of my takeaways from the night overall and some examples of questions he was asked and how he answered them.

~He came off as highly intelligent and highly opinionated. These two things were not surprising to me. He's been the head of the Union for almost 25 years so he obviously needed a little intelligence to get the position in his 30s and to hold it for so long he obviously needed to be of the players benefit opinion. The one thing that I was surprised about is he's a much bigger man than I was expecting. He's actually about 6 foot 1 probably weighs in low 200s. Kind of always pictured him as a 5 foot 8 man.

~Much of what he said was like the foreword of a book. What I mean is it was just a little summary but not too in depth, but at the same time made his opinions pretty easy to read into. Let me give an example. He started the conversation speaking about the oddities of sports that would not be accepted in other businesses. This included getting traded, free agency, and of course the draft. He spoke about each saying things like "What if you worked for GE in Connecticut and one day your boss brings you in for a meeting and says we've traded you to Fedex in Memphis and you're only choice was to go or to find a job in a different field?" When he brought up the draft he spoke about it in a similar matter, and it was highly evident when you read between the lines that he thinks its utter bullshit and that it shouldn't exist. He even changed the tone of his voice when he utter the words "for the sake of competetive balance".

~Here's another example. Someone asked him about why the MLBPA has been more successful than the NFLPA. He at first gave a politically correct answer like "I don't think it's really fair to judge the decisions that were made when not in the room." Then he elaborated saying that the MLBPA was run by former Steel Worker Union Lead Marvin Miller, whereas the NFLPA was not. The easy to read chapters behind that are, there is no god damn way he ever would have agreed to the bullshit the NFL players are subjected to.

~He later elaborated on some of the differences between the MLB and NFL and why a salary cap makes more sense for the NFL and not the MLB. Major League baseball generates the vast majority of its revenue through local sources. Local TV, Gates, local radio, merchandise, etc. Meanwhile the NFL makes the vast majority of their money through national contracts. So what does this mean? The revenues of the NFL teams are very much closely aligned while the MLB is far from it. If their was total revenue sharing the MLB than what incentive would the Yankees have to invest in their local product if they knew it was just going to get split 30 different ways. By not having a salary cap each team is motivated to make the most amount of money possible.

~The World Baseball Classic is a joint venture between the players and owners and will absolutely never happen during the season.

~I personally asked about the issue with controlling young players and issues like David Price, Matt Wieters, Evan Longoria, Delmon Young, etc. being sent down for the reason of increasing the years of control a big league club has on them. He basically said if they could prove that was the case then they could get it fixed but proving it and thinking it are completely different things. He also said that in the vast majority of cases these players are the upper echelon prospect who will likely have a long career regardless. Makes sense.

~He said that baseball is likely the most exclusive club on the planet, in that you have to be approved by the owners to own a team and that starting up a rival baseball league would be nearly impossible. Reason being that their are only a handful (if that he said 2 Vancouver and Monterey) of baseball stadiums that could handle a major league baseball team. Meanwhile, if you wanted to start a new NFL or NBA rival there are plenty of viable college stadiums that could work as fits. Makes sense.

~He said that there is no evidence that a Labor stoppage has actually hurt the MLB popularity. Not sure I agree with that.

~He made it sound like the MLBPA may end up looking at this offseason and search for possible cases of collusion.

~Someone asked about steroids and why the MLBPA wouldn't release the 103 names. THe answer was obvious, it's a legal matter with contractual promises not free to violate. What I did learn on the steroid issue was that the MLBPA negotiated for players to only be tested via cause. So similar to a police officer not being able to look through your house for drugs without a warrant. The test that created the "List" lead to random testing thanks to the players testing positive too many times.

And that's about it. It was an interesting night, he was an interesting man, and I may have seen him smile like once or twice. He did crack a few jokes including one about Bud Selig and how the Owners held their meetings in Wisconsin so Bud could sleep in his own bed, but I don't see a profession change to comedian any time soon.

Posted by Simon at 8:34 AM   Digg! submit to reddit BallHype: hype it up!

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