Fehr meets with O's, Marlins
Union head, players discuss economy, A-Rod news, other issues
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Donald Fehr, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, wrapped up his first day of touring spring camps Monday to share his state of the union. Fehr visited the Marlins and the Orioles, discussing the news of the day and the lay of the land going forward.
"The meetings were fairly straightforward and didn't take too long. I've put 100 miles on the car today," he said to the local media covering the Orioles. "Basically, as you might expect, we spent some time talking about the economy. People are interested in what is happening and what has happened with the free-agent market and salaries. We spent some time, obviously, going over what happened with the disclosures last week involving the 2003 testing program. And then answered questions and talked about the pension plan and internal staff matters."
Fehr made it clear he wouldn't speak to specifics discussed in either meeting. Much of Fehr's time with the media was spent discussing the case of Alex Rodriguez, who was recently identified in an SI.com story as one of 104 players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs during the 2003 season. Fehr maintained that media coverage of that event has been one-sided and sensationalized for various reasons.
He also spoke to the case of union official Gene Orza, who was accused in the Mitchell Report of tipping an anonymous player about an upcoming random drug test. Orza was also accused of tipping Rodriguez in the recent Sports Illustrated article that opened the subject to widespread debate.
"Basically, the situation is this: We've had a lot of press frenzy lately, and I think that's the appropriate word for it," said Fehr. "But what was most interesting to me about it is that whatever happened happened a very long time ago. And on this supposed tipping incident, it's one unidentified player at one time four-and-a-half years ago. Nobody even puts in the story that whatever the truth was then, it operates entirely differently now.
"There hasn't been a hint that I'm aware of that [the new drug-testing system is] operating improperly now. We have independent administrators doing things and all the rest of it. And you would think that people would at least have the perspective to include in the coverage that this is very old news and doesn't reflect the current state of affairs."
Fehr said that the union sent out a memo advising players how to deal with media inquiries about the subject, and said that was more an issue of semantics than of trying to control the story.
"You've got to remember that if this controversy had arisen in 2005, there wouldn't have been much need to talk to the players because the events of 2003 and 2004 -- how we got to it and what the differences are in the testing program -- were fresh in everybody's mind," said Fehr, who has held his position since 1986. "This is five years ago, and there's a whole lot of people in camps who don't have any idea what happened in 2003, 2004 or 2005."
Fehr also addressed the Collective Bargaining Agreement, saying that he has no intention of tipping his hand or negotiating through the media. Fehr said that he hasn't heard any talk about the possibility of a salary cap, other than what he's read in the newspapers by way of comments from various owners.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.