SUN Hockey Pool

Baseball won't follow NHL: Fehr

MIKE RUTSEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

Don Fehr is used to answering questions but after emerging from a meeting with the Blue Jays players here in Dunedin yesterday, the executive director of the MLB Players' Association was asking the contingent of Canadian reporters about the mess in the NHL. "Didn't they have some bargaining this week? Did it go anywhere?" Fehr asked.

When told it was quick and led to nothing he shrugged and added, "Well, I guess that's not surprising but I sure hope they figure out a way to get it done.

"It has been 10 years since we went through it and it wasn't as bad as this but it brings back a lot of memories and I sure hope they figure out a way to work it out to everybody's satisfaction, and that's what it will take -- to everybody's satisfaction."

Fehr, who is on his annual tour of spring training camps, was asked if in his wildest dreams did he ever think he would see one of the four major sports wipe out its season?

"It never really occurred to me," Fehr said. "When the players offered their 24% rollback in December, I certainly didn't know whether that would make a deal. It certainly seemed to me very unlikely that it would not provide at least the basis for an interim agreement so they could keep playing because the magnitude of that rollback is staggering. The level of the concession the players were willing to make in order to play for the fans was really quite large."

Fehr added he wasn't surprised by the fact any renewed negotiations after the NHL season was cancelled meant those negotiations would start from scratch, that all previous offers from both sides were off the table.

"Did I expect that result? Yes," he said. "You have to remember that people predicate their last offers, especially the players, based upon the anticipation that they will continue to play and they'll have part of the year. When that doesn't happen, they've got to take stock."

Fehr doesn't have to worry about pounding away in negotiations any time soon as MLB's current agreement doesn't expire until the end of the 2006 season. He doesn't anticipate a scenario as deadly as the one that has hit the NHL.

"Baseball is doing pretty well, revenue is up substantially," Fehr said. "We've had a lot of different teams win. It's a pretty easy argument now to demonstrate that even the so-called small-market teams -- if they're properly run -- can do pretty well.

"One of the things that happened in hockey is the NHL is extremely reluctant to have revenue sharing and that makes things difficult. That wasn't the case in baseball. We were able to negotiate that out both in 1994 and last time ('02)."

Fehr doesn't expect any carry over effect in the next round of negotiations from sour negotiations in other leagues, such as the NHL and, perhaps, the NBA.

"It's not a tremendous amount and the reason is the economics of the sports are different, the makeup of the people is different, the words (such as free agency, revenue sharing) don't mean the same thing and they all stand alone," he said.


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