When union boss Donald Fehr leaves the players association in March, he will take with him the last link to the worst person to happen to baseball.
Not Barry Bonds.
I'm talking about Donald Fehr.
And this isn't about steroids, either. Fehr gets way too much credit/blame for that, as if he was the greedy unethical SOB hiding in the toilet with a syringe and some horse steroids. He wasn't. That was Bonds. And Roger Clemens. And Sammy Sosa. And hundreds more, some of the names we know, some we are just waiting to "learn."• Blogg Doyel: This is why you hate the media
This isn't about steroids, because frankly, you don't care about steroids. You never did. The steroid era came and (not really ever) went, but still you go to the ballpark. Why? Because you don't care about steroids. You never did. Don't lie about it now. As far as the steroid era goes, you're as complicit as Donald Fehr, so let's not beat up Fehr over that, OK?
Let's beat him up over this:
He ruined the economics of baseball. Not just the competition on the field, although he did ruin that. Fehr took over in 1983 -- and for kicks, look at the teams who won the World Series in the previous decade. From 1971-80, seven of the 10 champions came from so-called small markets: Oakland (three), Cincinnati (two) and Pittsburgh (two). The other champions were the Yankees (twice) and Phillies.
Now then, look at the past 13 years of Fehr's reign. In those 13 years, there were just two small-market champions: Florida and Arizona.
But in those 13 years, the Yankees and Red Sox combined for six titles. The Phillies and Angels and White Sox won. The 2006 champion Cardinals might qualify as a small-market city, but they've always rolled in the money. Which is what baseball has become all about under Fehr.
Money.• Fehr retiring | Miller: Legacy falls on steroids | Ratto: Fehr not fall guy for 'roid rage
But it's not just about the competition on the field. I know how this whole thing works, and so I know that lots of you don't care about that. Because lots of you are in those huge markets, like Boston and New York and Chicago and Los Angeles and Philadelphia. America is all about numbers, and those cities have the numbers. They have any Internet site's readership's numbers, too, because those cities are enormous. I get it. Lots of you looked at those facts on the evolution of the typical World Series champion during the Fehr Era, and you nodded your head. Looked good to you, didn't it?
But here's where you should stop nodding and start loathing Fehr: He took money out of your pocket. He didn't pocket it himself, but he provided the sucking action that drained your wallet.
When Fehr took over in 1983, the average salary in baseball was $289,000. Today, that's not even the minimum. Today the minimum salary is $400,000 -- up from $60,000 when Fehr took over.
|Mike Hampton can thank Fehr for his massive contract from Colorado before the 2001 season. (Getty Images)|
For a 25-player active major league roster, the average payroll exceeds $75 million.
Who do you think pays for that?
You do, sucker.• Highest player salaries | Team payrolls
Your ticket prices have gone into triple, or even quadruple, digits. Parking is a joke. Beer costs $9. You now pay $6 for the right to supplement your midsection with 600 calories of whatever excess food product is in your Ballpark Hot Dog.
And even if you didn't go to games, you paid for Mike Hampton to make $16 million in 2008. And Rafael Furcal's $15.7 million salary. Randy Winn's $9.1 million. Austin Kearns' $5 million. You paid for it, or you helped pay for it, through your cable bill. That's the other way baseball teams rob from you, Peter, to pay for Paul (Konerko, $12 million): They get their money through television deals.
And when baseball teams jack up their cable rights fees, where does the trickling effect end? In your wallet. Whether you watch baseball or not.
All of this goes back to Donald Fehr, who was -- I admit -- brilliant at his job. Look, this story isn't an attack on Fehr's ability as a union boss. That would be stupid. If you work for a union, your union should have someone as ruthless as Donald Fehr in charge. You would make a lot more money than you make right now, I promise you that.
This isn't about Fehr's genius, because Fehr hasn't been working for you, or for me, since 1983. He has been working for the players.
And they have the money to show for it.