Players' union chief Don Fehr does his job like most Americans, only with a much graver expression and using much larger words.
Like Bud Selig, Fehr probably has one more labor negotiation left in him, in 2006, at which point he could step aside and let someone such as Gene Orza or Mike Weiner fight the next commissioner, who undoubtedly will be George W. Bush, assuming the owners don't hire one of the hotel valets from their next executive council meeting.
If there is anything less enlightening than a handful of owners massing behind a drug program set forth by the commissioner -- who is bought and paid for by, yes, the owners -- it is Selig's whiplash progression from steroid ignorance to Defcon 1.
This isn't to say that Selig is wrong. He's not. He's late, but not wrong. In fairness to Selig, we were all late. Honestly, however, only one of us was running baseball at the time, and I don't know about you, but I haven't canceled any World Series lately.
Now that Selig has joined up with Congress -- an owners' resolution professing their admiration is due any day -- Fehr and his players are on their own. Really, there appears to be only one choice: Take Selig's 50-game, 100-game, you're-out disciplinary progression or take your chances with Congress, whose progression is two years and then you're out.
In the words of that great Texas Ranger left-hander, ya' gotta know when to hold 'em, and know when to fold 'em.
But, save a little compassion for Fehr, who isn't in the business of forfeiting collectively bargained player rights based solely on the whims of baseball owners and Washington legislators. Really, Fehr has done a substantial amount of giving on the issue -- rightfully so -- and it wasn't that long ago that he was arm-in-arm with Selig before those same members of Congress. Fehr has an equal obligation to save jobs and guard the welfare of his players, which, in this case, means flushing the sport of performance-enhancing drugs, which means yielding further.
It would be less complicated for Fehr, perhaps, had Selig been more consistent in his path to zero tolerance.
Working backward, Selig, on May 16: "In the event that we are unable to achieve agreement with the MLBPA on this matter and I am left with no reasonable alternative to address this critical issue, I will support federal legislation."
Selig, on May 12: "Whether the program is working today is not the issue because I think we would agree with the players' association it is working. That isn't the issue because the integrity issue transcends that."
Selig, on March 17: "Critics of the current program [are] well-intentioned, [but] not well-informed about baseball's multifaceted campaign against such substances.... There is no evidence there was ever a widespread problem."
Selig, on March 8: "When you look back on it, we've addressed it, the players' association has addressed it. Go back on all the history, what they did and what they didn't do, it's not relevant. It's been addressed. We've moved ahead.... Slamming people around or leaving the inference that this sport has not dealt with its problem, that's just wrong. And, damn it all, it should be said."
Selig, on March 5: "I'm very comfortable in telling you I believe we've not only dealt with our problem, but we will finish what we started seven years ago this year. There will always be some exceptions, but I'm very comfortable in what we've done."
So, Fehr's target keeps moving. Even the target's target keeps moving.
Selig, on May 1: "I continue to believe that time is of the essence in addressing this issue."
Selig, on Feb. 26: "I am directing all club officials and employees to refrain from further comment on the BALCO proceedings specifically and performance-enhancing drugs generally. In addition, with the full support of the Major League Baseball Players Assn., I am directing each club to meet with its players and urge them to refrain from any and all public comment on this topic at this time."
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With Adrian Beltre now in Seattle and opening-day starter Jose Valentin out with a knee injury, the Dodgers have gotten little production at third base. How this season's Dodger third basemen compare to what Beltre did last year.
*--* 2004 AB HR RBI AVG BELTRE 598 48 121 334
*--* AB HR RBI AVG JOSE VALENTIN 67 2 12 194 MIKE EDWARDS 40 0 2 275 NORIHIRO NAKAMURA 39 0 3 128 OLMEDO SAENZ 8 0 1 375 OSCAR ROBLES 19 0 0 105 ANTONIO PEREZ 4 0 1 500 Totals 177 2 19 263