Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Villain of our Generation, Part 2

Okay, you read the Tuesday night post. I'm going to cut to the chase and continue on the top three villains of our generation in baseball. This is really covering 1994 and beyond, as that is the scope of the new Ken Burns documentary.

3. Barry Bonds. Definitively the face of the steroid scandal. The guy made a mockery of single-season and career records and defiantly faced steroid accusations as he did it. Bonds was implicated in the BALCO scandal in every way possible and still denied everything. He was more defiant than even Clemens was in the face of the steroid scandal. He sneered at the media and lied to federal agents despite a mountain of evidence against him. And what did he do it all for? Because he was jealous of McGwire and Sosa. The fact that he was a dickhead throughout the course of his career, theatening girlfriends, fighting Jeff Kent, and having his son serve as a human shield against the media during a more memorable spring training interview is just icing on the cake.

As the Gunn said Wednesday, when you think of the steroid scandal, you're not thinking about Shane Monahan. You're not even thinking about Rafael Palmeiro, David Ortiz, Jay Gibbons, or Jason Giambi. You're thinking about Barry Bonds, the face of the scandal, defiant and unrepentant.The case against him: He was a good baseball player, and the first five years of his career, he was not that much of a dick.

2. Commissioner Allan Selig. Speaking of defiant and unrepentant, this guy (who is not my Bud) think he's done such a good job as commissioner than he deserves a Patrick in the middle of his name. The case against him is that baseball has grown immensely under his leadership and he's made some good decisions, like the Division Series. It's increased revenue, but the "golden age" argument is opinion, not fact.

Let's not get it twisted: Selig was one of the owners responsible for the owners' collusion of the 1980s, which was a tremendous injustice to the players. Good thing Steinbrenner kept that from becoming a completely corrupt cartel. Selig and friends doing this helped create the chasm between the players' association and the owners that led to the 1994 work stoppage. Selig was an awful negotiator throughout the work stoppage, and he is so aloof and oblivious to the importance of his job that it took him a decade in the big office to sell the Brewers. He also refused to move his office to the MLB headquarters, having his underlings working in New York while he chilled out in Milwaukee. That's disgusting.

Selig was also responsible for the league looking away from steroid testing and pretty much going on dates with Donald Fehr because they were both cashing in while the players themselves were guaranteeing themselves health defects later in life. He only acted toward getting rid of drugs in the sport when legislators had to step in and threaten his anti-trust exemption. He also had better things to do the first three days the Mitchell Report was released to him than to actually read the report. Way to care about your job.

His constant wishy-washy behavior not only resulted in constant audibles in drug-testing discipline, records going down because of his lack of oversight, a hare-brained execution of the all-star game counting, and a gimmicky, ineffective system of interleague play, but it also let MLB be the complete plaything of TV networks, to the point that the World Series is a) played in a monsoon because FOX didn't want to reschedule "So You Think You Can Dance" in 2009 and b) delayed for no reason except for allowing FOX to air its Halloween special of "Glee." Guy has no balls.

1. Donald Fehr. Remember when Bob Knight told Jeremy Schaap that he wasn't his father? Well, someone should have told Donald Fehr that he wasn't Marvin Miller. His arrogance, self-righteousness, and unwilling to negotiate is just as much at fault for the 1994 strike as Selig's. Fehr also fought against injustices against players when the injustices didn't exist anymore. We're not talking about Curt Flood and the reserve clause anymore, bro.

What Fehr saw as an injustice was the fact that his dirty players didn't want to take drug tests while his clean players did. Privacy and civil liberties? Sure, I understand that. But I also understand the fact that Fehr had a choice: To stick up for his clean players (and, by default, protect the health of the players on the fence) or to stick up for his dirty players (and, by default, put into question the health of the players on the fence). He went the wrong way. Just as he did with the strike, he acted against the best interests of the game and, therefore, the players of the game.

Fehr also encouraged his players to obstruct justice by refusing to talk to George Mitchell and his investigators. He was disrespectful at best when grilled by Congress himself. Ultimately, he said that doing steroids was no worse than smoking. Except there's no incentive for a player to smoke cigarettes. There is still no test for HGH in major league baseball, mostly due to the defiance of this guy. He also forgot, I guess, to shred the 2003 List of 104. Like Selig reading the Mitchell Report, I guess he had better things to do that day.

If you happen to have an uncle or a cousin who used to be a major league baseball player during the Donald Fehr era, then just see him drop dead under strange circumstances at the age of 55, you know who to blame. Donald Fehr. Sorry guys, but there's no case against this guy. He's clearly head and shoulders above the field as the biggest villain of our generation.


Anonymous said...


I'm surprised at your reasoning behind your choice of Donald Fehr, only because I know you're a big 'accountability' person. As bad at his job as Donald Fehr may have been he didn't force anyone to take steroids. He may have made them attractive. But cigarette companies make smoking attractive and 80% of Americans don't smoke.

Making Fehr out to be the bad guy because he was an enabler is akin to convicting the parents of a 19 year old who kills his teacher because they let him play violent video games and didn't say anything when he started wearing trench coats to school. The players who used steroids had a choice.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...


It's a combination between the steroids thing and the strike thing, really. As you recall, I certainly was big into accountability for the individual players, but as Chris Rock and many others said in the Burns documentary, if you could take a pill and it can make you better and your job to make you more money, you have to have a crazy moral compass to NOT do it.

It was From the Bronx who was bigger into the player accountability than I was. I agree to a certain extent to what Chris Rock said. It was because of the look-the-other-way attitude of Selig and the fact that Fehr told the clean guys to screw while protecting the dirty guys.

The story of Rick Helling going into the union meetings 4 or 5 years in a row, saying that there's a problem with drug use and not only does it hurt the players doing it but it also hurts the guys not doing it and trying to keep their jobs, just to be dismissed by Fehr and his underlings, is enough. He had a choice, and he made the one endorsing the illegal activity and creating every barrier possible to keep his clean players from retaining their jobs.

To use your example, it's more like if the parents know their son is doing heroin and wearing trench coats and not only do nothing about it, but tell his concerned classmates to screw. Even after the fact, the parents, if they are akin to Donald Fehr, would lock their son's door so that federal agents can't find the arsenal of weapons under his bed.

Anonymous said...

First of all I would say that going down the path of trying to play out an in imperfect analogy (the parents of the murderer analogy) is probably not going to get us anywhere productive. Then again, since when has this blog been about having productive discussions.

Anyway, I'll be interested to see where this goes, because you have DV the idealist/purist on one side and the Gunn, who has to live with the realities of the US Legal system every day, on the other.

Taking the steroid issue first- if the world was perfect then yes you would want Fehr to vehemently oppose steroids and push for better testing because of the long term health issues and the whole "fairness" issue for those that don't take them.

In the real world though, it's hard to expect someone in Fehr's position to really go all out in a direction that is going to get a lot of his constituents in trouble with the MLB and the law. You almost have to expect that he's going to oppose it.

The strike of course is another issue because that just totally crippled baseball and was stupid on both the players part and the owners part. Criticism of Fehr around this point is more valid in my opinion.

Anonymous said...


I'm still wishing that you had written in as Five-Time Guy. Kudos to Tim for beating you to the punch.

As for your post, yours is a great point about Fehr being more culpable for the strike than anything else (and therefore more susceptible to criticism on that front). Any time you have rich people fighting outrageously rich people, I think we know who is going to win. It's always so stupid. Not only do a large number of pro athletes live paycheck to paycheck (those posse's and illegitimate children are such brilliant investments) but these ultra-wealthy owners aren't rich because they own a team. They were rich and then BOUGHT a team. They have a number of other income streams to rely on. It's not a battle that can be won.

There's also a fine line between representing your clients zealously and blindly representing them. Ultimately, you have to look out for their best interests. By having his players strike, Donald Fehr cost them an enormous amount of money as well as credibility. That's the real crime.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Gunn & Bandi,

Both representations are, in the Gunn's words, "blind." In neither case - the strike or the steroid scandal - it can be argued (and will be argued by me) that he was working AGAINST the best interests of his constituents.

Going up against your point, Bandi, Fehr did "go all out in a direction that is going to get a lot of his constituents in trouble with the MLB and the law." If he had immediately listened to his clean players instead of letting this whole thing slide, sure, there might not be any kind of artificial 73-home-run record. But his constituents wouldn't be lying in front of Congress and getting indicted for perjury. FNO.

TimC said...

Hey Bandi, if you want imperfect analogies, I'm your guy. And in this situation of steroids-strike debate, I would pull out the old WWI-WWII comparison. WWII was a far more devastating and regrettable event than its predecessor but without the mistakes leading up to and following WWI the problems of WWII would not have had such a negative effect on the world.

I see steroids-strike in the same way. Steroids have essentially killed off a part of baseball that it can never recover. To me, the effects on stats, health (see high school athletes dying on pitcher's mounds from PED complications, for one), credibility (thanks, Rafa), public interest (see the ratings of Titans 30, Jags 3 on a WS night) and on and on all came from steroids, not the strike.

But the strike led into it- to recover baseball's image, its prestige, its appeal, owners just allowing things to happen if the end justified the means. Seventy homers? Sure, where do I sign? The Helling story is chilling, but understandable. Undoubtedly, without the strike, the steroids situation would not have spiraled so far out of control.

Anonymous said...


Very good point about the steroids side of things. You win on that point. Things blew up in large part because Fehr didn't want to support any serious kind of testing which for some reason made Congress believe it needed to legislate on the issue.

If he had bent even a little bit, it may not have gotten to that point. Very short sighted.

the gm said...

Tim C and Bandi,

Agree whole-heartedly, especially with Bandi's admission that I "win." Although I do believe that poor commissionership (please refer to villain #2) also has something to do with the World Series ratings opposite a regular-season football game. The fact that baseball is being moved around to accomodate "Glee" and "So You Think You Can Dance" is simply unacceptable. But it's also hard to justify staying up until 12:15 in the morning to watch two teams play a game when you don't really care who wins and you don't really know when it's going to be over. This is not a new problem. But falling asleep on the couch at least gives me a quasi-legitimate excuse for low-quality posts during the World Series.

The fact that the poorly-conceived idea of interleague play has diluted the allure of the World Series also speaks to wishy-washy and ineffective commissionership.

The Rick Helling story tells you all you need to know about the steroid scandal in baseball.