Rob Manfred is a joke.
This article could end there and probably be the most viewed page on this site within an hour but I would be remiss if I didn’t elaborate the most obvious statement I’ve made in a decade. Whether it is his ridiculous rule changes, his obsessive focus on problems only he perceives, his handling of the Astros’ sexism issues, or his handling of the Astros’ cheating scandal, Manfred’s sole achievement is a savant-level ability to betray the game he’s been tasked with preserving.
It has been noted that Manfred is appointed by the owners of baseball’s 30 franchises so he is, in effect, accountable to the sport’s shareholders. Every decision he makes is intended to preserve, if not increase, the bottom line of the owners but what he fails to realize is that the bottom line is tradition and his complete disregard for that tradition may be doing irreparable harm to the game.
We wrote about his laser focus on chasing millennial fans and how that focus was ruining the sport way back in 2017. Things have not improved since then and now, in 2020, the commissioner’s office is quite possibly the most hated office in all of sport.
In a Spring Training press conference, Rob Manfred — whose name adorns every major league baseball headed towards Astros rib cages — was dismissive to reporters, downplayed the severity of the cheating scandal, and called the World Series trophy which bears his office’s name a “piece of metal”. He then went on to say that the lifelong shame the players feel is far worse than any punishment his office could have doled out. That argument may have carried more water if this week’s worth of press access to Astros players wasn’t littered with accused players exhibiting zero shame and defiantly claiming that they “earned” their success. There is no shame in the clubhouse and there is no shame in the commissioner’s office.
His comments rightfully infuriated fans and players alike and places Manfred in the running for worst commissioner in baseball’s history. Many players, including some who are usually diplomatic about their public comments, have openly criticized the commissioner in the first week of Spring Training.
Turner on Manfred referring to World Series trophy as a piece of metal: "For him to devalue it the way he did yesterday just tells me how out of touch he is with the players in this game. At this point the only thing devaluing that trophy is that it says 'commissioner' on it."
— Jorge Castillo (@jorgecastillo) February 17, 2020
Mike Trout is not happy with the Astros and the punishment they received pic.twitter.com/VDwJCFZXHl
— Rhett Bollinger (@RhettBollinger) February 17, 2020
If the integrity of the game is of such little import, why bother? If the trophy for winning the sport’s greatest competition is of such little import, why bother? If the preservation of a century of tradition and history is of such little import, why bother?
Rob Manfred’s complete inability to do the right thing when he is called upon to make obvious decisions has baseball hurtling towards laughing-stock status and his ambivalent, condescending reaction to those who wish for him to be held accountable for his own decisions is nearly as maddening as the scandals that he is improperly reacting to.
The solution to keeping baseball relevant is not found in enabling and covering for cheaters. Do you want to attract new fans to the greatest game ever created? Leave it alone. Every gimmick, every misstep, and every rule change is driving your good fans away and attracting nobody.
If the commissioner is truly appointed to address the needs and concerns of team owners, there should be an immediate summit of those owners to discuss Manfred’s replacement before he does harm to the public image of this game that can not be reversed.
Cutting minor league teams, pitch clocks, pitcher change restrictions, pitch free intentional walks, openly allowing cheating, and every other Manfred “innovation” may keep people talking about baseball but for every wrong reason. The best thing baseball can do to try to repair a fracturing image is to fire Manfred. He won’t resign, as we’ve seen he has no shame, so the only course of action is to force him out and replace him with someone who will honor the game and preserve it while moving it towards the future. In a perfect world, the commissioner would be like the best umpires: nameless. Manfred should not be a news story. Manfred should not be trending on social media. Manfred should not be the topic of player pressers. He should be a virtually invisible force in the game who keeps everything running smoothly, not a divisive hack with questionable loyalty and inauthentic integrity.
How many more missteps will fans endure before they just stop tuning into games completely and how long are owners willing to take that gamble? The time is now to right this sinking ship.
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