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Wednesday, March 10, 2004

McCain Shows No Fehr

For years, Sen. John McCain faced the North Vietnamese as a captive prisoner of war. Today, McCain took on Donald Fehr, head of the MLBPA, on the steroid issue in baseball and the union's intransigence on agreeing to tougher testing and stiffer penalties. According to an AP report, the Senator scolded Fehr and warned that "the status quo is not acceptable. And we [Congress] will have to act in some way unless the major league players union acts in the affirmative and rapid fashion."

While Bud Selig and MLB have consistently lost battles with Fehr and the MLBPA, how will McCain fare (yes, puns are an awful affliction but permissible in a blog)? Hard to say. It seems unlikely that the Federal Government can successfully become involved in the testing terms of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, unless the agreement violates the law - which now it does not apparently. It is probable that any new legislation attempting to interfere with the CBA would be challenged by Fehr, all the way to the nine elder jurists in black.

The war that is being lost by Fehr, against McCain and others at the moment, is the PR war. The MLBPA has been completely indifferent to public opinion in the past, and largely took the blame for the 1994 Season ending strike. Fehr is now a lightning rod again for a high-profile issue, especially in light of the tough NFL steroid policy, which the Senate Committee lauded for its toughness.

Can Fehr and the MLBPA afford more bad PR? Simple logic says "No," especially when the lore and lure of baseball is often intertwined with and grounded in the game's glorious past and its associated records and legends. Steroids have forever tainted recent accomplishments by beloved - and some not-so-beloved - players in the batting box, and hurt career pitching records in the process. Ugh! But we fear that Fehr will soldier on, steadfastly ignoring the opinions of the game's fans, Selig and the owners, and McCain and the Congress.

ML Baseball is slanted, twisted, distorted, uneven, and unfair as it endures wildly differing salary levels and income distribution at the club level, upending its basic team-to-team competitiveness. The game's essence: one man with a (perhaps drug-powered) bat against one man with a ball. Why do we still pay any attention to a sport that is slowly sinking to the WWF's level of credibility?

Make your own vote count: go to a minor or independent league game instead of MLB. They appreciate the fan support, they play hard, and they are playing because they love the game.