Astros: MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is ruining baseball
It’s clear to everyone — not just Houston Astros fans — that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is ruining the game.
Burn it down. It’s the middle of June, other professional sports leagues have return plans in place, and Major League Baseball is like a bus careening off a cliff. It’s not just Houston Astros fans who are angry anymore; pretty much everyone is fed up with the proverbial driver, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.
I’d like to think it’s more due to hubris than stupidity, but regardless of the cause, Manfred is primarily responsible for the quagmire his sport has sunken into. What was once viewed as an opportunity to help the nation achieve some normalcy has now turned into an unequivocal nightmare.
The latest nail in his coffin came on Monday when, in an interview with ESPN, Manfred said he was “not confident” that there would be a 2020 season. This comes just five days after he publicly stated there was a 100 percent chance of baseball being played this year. Talk about a quick 180.
While the players aren’t entirely free from blame, this is mostly Manfred’s doing. He already got the players to agree to play for prorated salaries, got the draft chopped down to a measly five rounds, and got the players on board with an expanded postseason.
Despite that, he still continued to haggle over money. His offers to the players were never going to be accepted, and he had to know it. It was as if he’d previously agreed to provide a dozen doughnuts, and then turned around and offered a half dozen instead. When the players said no, he presented a “new” offer of six. After that was rejected, he offered six plus a couple of doughnut holes. It was going nowhere.
Now MLB is telling the players there will be no 2020 season unless the MLBPA waives any potential legal claims against the league. There were already rumblings that the players would file a grievance if the league mandated a short season, so Manfred clearly anticipates that happening. It also sounds like he wants to avoid it at all costs.
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Why? Because he hasn’t been negotiating in good faith. Owners, whose franchise values have grown at a far faster rate than player salaries, suddenly want players to share in the losses despite keeping the gains largely to themselves. Manfred can’t admit that, so he resorts to this utter sham of a negotiation.
Of course, this sudden lack of confidence from Manfred comes on the heels of the revelation that he may have covered up the extent of the Yankees’ sign stealing. Astros fans have long believed that he used their team as a scapegoat in order to protect the sport’s most profitable franchise, and there may be proof of that on the horizon.
Unfortunately it may be a while before we see that, as MLB and the Yankees have appealed the judge’s decision to unseal the letter. So the possibility of there being proof of Manfred’s complicity will hang over everything for at least a couple of months until a ruling is made.
But in the end, it might not matter that much. Confidence in Manfred is quickly eroding across the sport; players are openly criticizing him en masse while fans are calling for him to be fired. It might take something extraordinary for the owners to step up and get rid of him, but a lost season could just be enough.
If the owners truly want to save the game, they should give Manfred the boot before it’s too late. The current labor agreement expires in Dec. 2021, which is part of the reason why both MLB and the MLBPA have dug their heels in so much. If the relationship between the two sides is this bad already, and if no one aside from the owners thinks Manfred is worth anything, then for the sake of the sport, someone else should see this crisis through.
But unfortunately that may not happen. If the owners are convinced that fans will return, they won’t make a change. Manfred has lost the confidence of everyone but the owners, and if he’s allowed to continue, he’ll undoubtedly generate more ill will than the 1994 strike ever did.