Baseball Reflections

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, Should He Be Replaced & By Whom?

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Back on January 25th 2015, Rob Manfred became just the 10th Commissioner of Baseball after Bud Selig held the office since 1998 (although he was acting Commissioner since 9/7/1992). Manfred earned his Bachelor of Science from Cornell University in 1980 & his Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1983.

Manfred 1st began working for MLB during the 1994-95 strike as outside counsel for the owners, but didn’t work for MLB full time until 1998 when he held the title of Executive Vice President of Economics and League Affairs. He led MLB’s investigation into the Biogenesis scandal over PEDs in 2013 which led to former Commissioner Bud Selig promoting him to MLB’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) later that same year. A role that had been vacant since 2010 when the former COO resigned.

Most of this background on Manfred was taken from his Wikipedia page, the news & other articles that will be referenced later in this article.

Manfred beat out Red Sox chairman Tom Werner and MLB’s executive VP of Business, Tim Brosnan to succeed Selig as commissioner. I wonder if the Baseball betting insight world would have had as the odds on Manfred winning over the two other suggested candidates? As a Red Sox fan, I’m not sure how much better Werner would be, but I would prefer an MLB executive over a former owner as commissioner. On November 15, 2018, the MLB owners extended his contract as commissioner through the 2024 season.

What has Manfred done that is So bad?

In a 2019 column, Noah Frank noted that owners may already want to rethink the contract extension they gave him back in 2018 as attendance at games have gone down more than 7% during Manfred’s commissionership which also saw revenues start taking a downturn after 17-straight years of improvement year over year. Frank notes that even back then, there was a fan petition to remove Manfred from office which he states was well before public outbursts, etc. at the time of his column. As Frank also notes, as he makes reference to the Craig Calcaterra piece here, his seemingly personal vendetta against MiLB goes back (visibly) to the 2019 offseason when he wanted to eliminate 42 minor league teams which brought on the ire of MiLB as well as US Senators (Bernie Sanders & Elizabeth Warren) as well. Now if that isn’t a red flag, I don’t know what is!

Although, after seeing how Manfred has handled himself & the changes/decisions he has made (Astros sign stealing scandal, the decisions he has made so far like that 8-game suspension of Pitcher Joe Kelly  (in a 60-game season which is the equivalent of a 22-game suspension in a 162-game season per this July 29, 2020 Tweet from Ken Rosenthal) & those he wants to make with Minor League Baseball (more on that later) are tragic and possibly killing our national pastime) I’m not so sure.

You would think Manfred would have reaching new collective bargaining agreements down pat now after helping to negotiate those done in 2002, 2006 and 2011. So, what is different now in 2022? Manfred & the MLBPA can’t seems to stay in the same room long enough to negotiate a deal and from all public account, it seems to be Manfred & the owners that are unrealistically dragging this out longer than it needs to be. For more on the latest debacle from Manfred, I suggest you read former MLB Network columnist, Ken Rosenthal’s piece on The Athletic, but if you don’t subscribe to The Athletic, then I recommend Al Yellon’s article on Bleed Cubbie Blue.

Who should replace him?

Someone who has the respect of both the players & owners. Someone who might already be employed in the MLB office. Maybe someone who Manfred hired himself back in January of 2021 as a consultant for “on-field matters”? Wouldn’t that be ironic? Someone younger than the typical MLB Commissioner. Someone who is already on his way to being inducted into the Hall of Fame for ending World Series droughts in two beloved franchises … Theo Epstein!

In his current role, Theo is tasked with the challenge of changing baseball for the better as it was documented in the article based on his “R2C2” podcast (hosted by former Yankee CC Sabathia & announcer Ryan Ruocco) back in July of 2021.

Recently, there is less action during games than there was 10-20 years ago. Part of his reasoning is that today’s game has far too many strikeouts (one of Theo’s main focus points). In 2019, MLB saw a 21.7% strikeout rate which is like the average pitcher putting up Nolan Ryan and Sandy Kofax type strikeout numbers! For example, in 1980, the MLB strikeout rate was 12.8%. Likewise, in 2019, the average batting average was .239 when historically the average batting average has been between .260 and .265.

Hear a clip from this podcast below.

Fun Facts from 2017

Theo was bestowed the honor of being named in Fortune Magazine’s “World’s Greatest Leaders & one of Time Magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people! These facts were provided by Theo Epstein’s Wikipedia page.

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