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06/23/09 7:54 PM ET

Rays' Nelson comes to Fehr's defense

Reliever discusses Players Association head's impact

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays pitcher Joe Nelson took exception to John Kruk's comments on ESPN on Monday regarding Donald Fehr, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, after the news of Fehr's pending retirement.

"I saw Kruk give him a 'C' rating last night," the Rays' reliever said. "And I don't know how many meetings Kruk went to. I don't know how active he was. The players of today and for the last 10 years, we make the money we make, we have the deals we have all because of Donald. And Donald represents us. So anything that happens, we pushed him to get, whether it was steroid testing or anything else.

Donald Fehr

"Kruk, what I saw last night, it just upset me. He said he was mad about the 1994 World Series being canceled. Well, as I recall Tom Glavine was running those negotiations. And if he would have wanted to fold, we would have, but we wouldn't have the things we currently have if we would have folded in '94. Donald has always done what the players asked."

Nelson also said it's unfair to blame Fehr for the players' use of steroids.

"I heard [ESPN's] Buster Olney say that Donald's legacy is going to have steroids," Nelson said. "Donald never showed up and injected anybody. He fought for our rights. If enough guys would have shown up to the meetings and said, 'That's it, we're steroids testing,' Donald would have pushed for that and it would have been accepted by everybody.

"And the great thing about what he does, he gives you the pros and cons and represents both sides at those meetings. 'If we vote for this, this will be the positive side. But if we lose, this will be the negative side.' And the players are the ones who decide and push for what direction they want him to go. The guys that I've seen or heard come out and say stuff, they're either currently not playing, or they weren't at those meetings and they don't know how the process goes, because Donald always gives you both sides of the equation."

Nelson said he can understand Fehr not being popular with the Commissioner's Office, the fans or the owners.

"He didn't represent them," Nelson said. "That wasn't his gig."

However, Nelson can't fathom why any current or former players would be critical of their leader.

"His job was strictly to represent whatever 750 guys are protected under the union bylaws and the 40-man roster," Nelson said. "And he did that as well as anybody has ever done any job in the country. He gets an A-plus from me, and every single guy who is currently playing [or] has played has a better pension, better health care and those are all things that Donald got for us. He's done an incredible job."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.