- The Washington Times - Friday, March 12, 2004

Donald Fehr is stuck on the collective bargaining agreement, while baseball is stuck with an ever-increasing credibility gap.

Fehr felt a strong urge to ignore the obvious after landing on Capitol Hill before members of the Senate Commerce Committee.

The next home run that comes from the bat of Barry Bonds is open to the interpretation of investigators.

Baseball is lurking in the vicinity of professional wrestling, a cartoon-like contrivance that appeals to the primitive instincts of humanity. Seeing is not believing in the art refined by Vince McMahon.

Baseball, which aspires to be better than professional wrestling, is trying to come to terms with a scandal that threatens to undermine the integrity of the game. Seeing is no longer believing in baseball.

Bud Selig is responding with conviction and purpose to the threat, perhaps a first in his stewardship as commissioner. He is imploring the Fehr-led union to adopt the stringent drug-testing program employed in the minor leagues.

Selig sees no other way around what promises to be a long summer of developments that tear at the fabric of the game. The tearing could leave it in tatters, depending on a fan base being required to study the subjective forces in play.

If a home run raises eyebrows, Selig understands how counterproductive that is.

Fehr, as is his proclivity, is not inclined to do what is best for the game. He is still wrestling with the bad, old days of tight-fisted owners who believed in the merit of a $5,000 raise. That game no longer exists, except in the minds of a union that pretend to be at one with shipbuilders and truckers.

Fehr had an opportunity to pay his respects to a game that has paid him well. Instead, he ended up sparring with those politicians looking to clean up the game. He refused to yield to the concern wafting across America.

Fehr could not see the merit in tweaking the drug-testing program that is in place until the end of 2006, when the current labor agreement expires. By then, in three seasons, baseball could be a game that has lost the last remnants of its former self.

Five to 7 percent of the anonymous tests instituted in baseball last year came up positive, a powerful indication that the game has been compromised by the disease that afflicts all too many of the Olympic sports.

Unlike the Olympic Games, a quadrennial exercise built on spectacle and patriotism, baseball is dependent on the day-to-day dedication of the public. That dedication is fashioned around the perceived element of fair play, a problematic distinction as it is, given the buying power of the Yankees.

Bonds, a cheater or not, hardly can be viewed through the lens of clarity anymore following his link to the group of four men charged with dispensing steroids to star baseball players. His is the biggest name in baseball, with suspicion all around.

Selig and Fehr should have no divide to cross, really.

They should be endeavoring to remove the suspicions and penalize the offenders in the quickest manner possible.

But that is not like Fehr. He sees another labor-management impasse, and oh how he loves those sessions.

He loves pinning the barons of the game against the back of a wall. None of them can be trusted, especially the ones who cry poverty, and never mind that performance-enhancing drugs ought to transcend the usual pettiness of labor and management.

Fehr should be rushing to get behind closed doors with Selig. The sanctity of the game is at stake, as opposed to whether a .230 hitter deserves a $2million bump in salary.

Fehr has won the players zillions of dollars in the past. He is winning them nothing now as he plays the game he knows so well.

His is the stare-down game. His is the throat-clearing game. His is the game of negotiation, most anything worthy of a tough discussion.

The problem of steroids should be above that.

Baseball has a rich history stuffed with appealing numbers. Those numbers have the hint of being tainted now, the degree of which unknown.

Fehr has to know that on some level.

He just can’t overcome his natural tendency to barter.

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