MLB’s New Commissioner Robert Manfred Really Off Base
By Colin Holmes
Fans received a very nice email from Robert Manfred, the new Commissioner of Baseball and it made one thing very clear – the new Commish truly believes he is the czar of all of baseball. Not just MLB. Talking with ESPN, Manfred sounds like he wants to stride in to every facet of games played by anybody with a stick and a ball and weigh in on what makes up the game. Little League? He’s got ideas. Minors? Oh yeah – we’ve got time clocks running and who knows what all else is in the wings. As for the Majors – whoa, does he have some thoughts. Manfred’s first thoughts in office shows that he desires to inject the Commissioner’s office into the play on the field, the front office and the overall experience of the game. An activist commissioner does not bode well for a game that’s never been more popular.
Manfred calls this his “One Baseball” initiative. Hey, Commish – how about a consensus between the AL and NL on the designated hitter? That would be One Baseball. If he really wants to improve the game on the field, perhaps Manfred should start with a single set of rules for every game of the championship series.
The new Commissioner has several new priorities for baseball but one of the most controversial is his desire to eliminate or limit the defensive shift. That’s ridiculous. Forcing teams to align their defenses as he deems proper, in order to increase offense, reeks of someone looking to chase a market share rather than “improve” the game of baseball. If you begin changing the fundamental rules of the game because you think it might please a fickle audience, how long does it take to get to moving outfield walls, aluminum bats or strike zones the size of a hamster?
The Commissioner wants more kids to get into the game. He fondly recalls his childhood days at Yankee Stadium. That nostalgia clouds the reality of $200 fielder’s gloves, $10 hot dogs and $50 grandstand seat prices. Why is soccer the fastest growing sport in the US and the most popular in the world? It doesn’t cost a fortune to enjoy as a spectator or participant. Going to a Major League Baseball game is out of financial reach for far too many American families. You can’t fix that with a marketing outreach program.
In that interview with ESPN, Manfred says he wants more technology in the game because replay worked so well. It did? Rangers fans saw all too well how poorly instant replay could impact the game. Overturning plays at the plate, changing tight calls and it seemed that they rarely went well for the team from Texas. And then weeks later reworking the rules so the issues could be ironed out. That’s not what I call working well.
I really hope these are just blue sky ideas and trial balloons that Manfred is floating to gauge interest, but if they aren’t, then the game of baseball that we know and love may be in for some idiotic changes. I never thought I’d say it, but I may already miss Bud Selig.