February 6, 2020

"The Problems That Manfred Claims To Be Solving Aren't Really Problems. They're Examples Of His Philosophy."

Major league baseball's biggest problem in 2020 is not pace of play or an altered baseball or too many strikeouts or increased salaries or (in scare quotes!) analytics or an explosion of infield shifts or frequent pitching changes. The biggest problem isn't even the umpires' inconsistent (and possibly biased) pitch-calling and scores of incorrect calls on the bases (many of which are, thankfully, overturned).

Baseball's (latest and on-going) biggest problem is Rob Manfred.

As NBC Sports' Nick Stellini writes, Commissioner Manfred "enjoys futzing around with the game's rules".
What Manfred doesn't seem particularly interested in is the actual main issue plaguing the sport. The institution of baseball doesn't seem to be all that interested in the game of baseball. The league and the owners care much more about short-term profit than they do about the health of the game. ...

One of the more common accusations that fans throw at Manfred is that he doesn't actually like baseball. Why else would he be so fixated on finding new rules to shave off a few minutes of time from his games? ... Manfred's job is to maximize baseball's profitability, and wouldn't be ramming these changes through if he didn't think that they would help do so. ...

MLB claims that the only way to pay minor leaguers a fair wage is to eliminate teams, rather than having big league owners reach into their unfathomably deep pockets. This is, of course, absurd.

Additionally, while baseball is seeing record revenues, it's also seeing attendance drop for the fourth straight year. ...

In Manfred's grand plan, baseball is:
• Less accessible in person to many kids because a number of minor league teams will be cut and going to a big league game is too expensive

• Unwieldy and awkward because of time-saving rules that may actually make the game longer

• Full of organizations that would much rather play at the bottom of the standings or build mediocre 84-win teams that might accidentally find their way into the playoffs instead of spending to add good players

• Well aware of the fact that players will go unpunished for participating in intricate cheating schemes, if the fallout of the Astros scandal taught us anything

• Full of increasingly vocal players who are unsatisfied with the state of labor-management relations

• Played with a ball that behaves in completely unpredictable ways that the league laughably denies ...
[Is] this really a sustainable way of operating? Is pricing people out of the game while their favorite teams make half-hearted efforts at contention really good for the sport in the long run? ...

The problems that Manfred claims to be solving aren't really problems. They're examples of his philosophy, and that philosophy itself might just be the real issue.
Manfred has proven, over the last few months, that he is more interested (obsessed?) in altering several of the most fundamental rules of the sport - rules that have been in place for 150 years - rather than (a) admitting that numerous teams have been (and are) cheating, (b) investigating those many complaints and allegations, and (c) addressing that problem in a comprehensive and logical manner.

However, that necessary action would likely involve angering some of the men who pay his hefty salary*, so Manfred would rather reduce mound visits from six per game to five per game - and try to convince us that will suddenly make games zip right along and also attract hoards of young, new fans.

*: Manfred's salary is likely well over $10 million per year. Former Commissioner Bud Selig pocketed $14.5 million in the 12-month period ending October 31, 2005. That amount rose to $18.4 million in 2011 and Selig was reportedly making $22 million per year at the time he stepped down in 2014. Manfred has been commissioner for five years and is likely "earning" at least half of that amount. Also, ESPN reported Selig is being paid $6 million per year in retirement. MLB said that figure was inaccurate, but refused to provide any other information.


GK said...

I would imagine the general drop in interest in playing baseball would drastically change if minor leaguers were given a living wage. Major league is just a lottery, and for every major leaguer there are dozens of minor leaguers who never make it. I know of quite a few kids who got drafted in college, played in the minors and then gave up on the dream after 3 or 4 years because it never paid enough and they never got a chance to move up. They get back into the workfoce semi-qualified and having lost out on several years of decent wages.

Cities subsidize ballparks, and billionaires pocket the money. They get richer, and go buy soccer clubs and what not.

laura k said...

Thanks for this.

This whole thing is killing me, killing my love for the only sport that matters deeply to me. I'm relieved to know others see it and call him on it.

(Also thank you GK. Minor league salaries and working conditions are a disgrace. I've long thought that the players union should address it. Now I think minor leaguers need their own union.)