VERO BEACH, Fla. — Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Players' Assn., has spent his spring cutting a well-publicized swath along the Florida coast, criticizing the owners of each team he visits.
Sunday morning, before the Dodgers' 2-1 win over Houston in the club's exhibition opener, Fehr made a pilgrimage to Dodgertown to give a state of the game address to Dodger players. He also touched on all his favorite spring themes, including a charge of collusion among owners concerning refusal to sign free agents.
And, as expected, Fehr criticized Dodger management for refusing to sign free-agent outfielder Tim Raines. Fehr suggested that the Dodgers do not care about winning. "The Dodgers apparently are saying that Tim Raines cannot help their team win at any price, either at $1.6 million, $1 million or $62,500," Fehr said. "They (the owners) don't care very much about winning. The game they really want to win is beating the players and dragging down salaries. I'm not suggesting Tim Raines can go play anywhere at any price, but you know he could help any team."
The Dodgers have said since last winter that they will not pursue free agents because they are trying to reduce their payroll and develop their own talent.
"All (Fehr) is doing is trying to antagonize us," said Vice President Al Campanis, when told of Fehr's criticism of the Dodgers. "He shows how little he knows about baseball. I personally resent that. I'm saying this in a nice way, but that was an irresponsible comment for a man in his position."
Fehr's criticism of the Dodgers on Sunday was merely the latest in a series of acrimonious statements directed at teams.
In the past week, Fehr criticized New York Yankee owner George Steinbrenner for not pursuing free-agent pitcher Jack Morris, then visited Baltimore's camp and criticized Oriole management for obtaining catcher Terry Kennedy in a trade instead of pursuing a free-agent. On Saturday, Fehr visited Montreal's camp and criticized the club for not re-signing Raines and Andre Dawson.
Fehr's purpose for visiting camps this spring is to meet with the players and update them on the current climate of the union's relationship with the owners and the status of the union's pending collusion grievances.
After a two-hour meeting Sunday morning with Dodger players, Fehr said the reaction was not different from what he has experiences from players from other teams.
Said Fehr: "The very young players have a tendency to be mystified, saying why are they treating me so poorly? Some of the middle range players are saying they didn't understand what you (Fehr) were saying in 1985 (during negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement), but now they do. . . . And the really veteran players say, 'I've seen this before, like before 1976.' "
On the signing of Andre Dawson and whether it marks a break in the free-agent freeze, Fehr said: "Perhaps that might be something. Now, nobody has to say, 'I'm first,' anymore."
Len Matuzsek's double to deep center field in the bottom of the ninth inning off Jeff Calhoun scored Reggie Williams from first base to give their Dodgers 2-1 win over the Astros. The win went to reliever Matt Young, who worked the ninth inning and gave up an infield single. . . . Dodger pitching was impressive in the exhibition opener. Orel Hershiser got the start and allowed one hit--a sharp single to right by Glenn Davis--in three innings. Tim Leary gave up a home run to nonroster outfielder Paul Householder on his third pitch, but settled down and gave up only one additional hit (a double to Jim Pankovits) in the fifth inning. Ken Howell pitched two scoreless innings of relief, allowing two hits and striking out three. . . . Leary on his Dodger exhibition debut: "I hung a forkball (on the home run). I got a lot of other guys out. I felt all right. I didn't feel I threw particularly hard. I was just trying to get ahead of the hitters . . . " Manager Tom Lasorda on his pitching staff: "Kenny Howell kept the ball low, which is good for him. Young made them hit it on the ground, which is great. Leary impressed me, except for that one pitch." . . . Dodger pitchers did not allow a walk on Sunday. . . . Dodger hitters produced only six hits. Jeff Hamilton knocked in the Dodgers' first run with a bloop single to center field in the eighth inning. No Dodger had more than one hit. . . . Pedro Guerrero played seven innings in left field. He went 0 for 2--striking out in the first inning, grounding to third in the fourth inning and walking in the seventh. He was then replaced by a pinch runner.