Rob Manfred needs to lead baseball out of its current gridlock.
On Thursday morning, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred met with the media in Orlando to share updates regarding the current lockout. The plan is for MLB to bring a new proposal to the players on Saturday.
The owners — read: Manfred — locked the players out on Dec. 2. This is the first time the commissioner is speaking to the media since then. That’s 70 days without comments from the guy who’s supposed to be negotiating us out of the lockout.
The two sides have spent less time talking than I have spent watching the first season of “The Book of Boba Fett.” So learning they’ll spend three days on opposite sides of the country (the Players Assoc. is meeting in Arizona this week) is disappointing but not surprising.
This serves as yet another reminder that Rob Manfred hates baseball.
Rob Manfred says a lot of the criticism/distrust of him that’s been issued publicly is “tactical.” Cites his many years making labor deals. “I’m the same person today I was in 1998 when I took that labor job (at MLB)."
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 10, 2022
Why now? Why today?
As a reminder for sports fans at large, today is February 10.
Also on the sports calendar today:
- the NBA Trade Deadline is 3 PM ET
- the NFL awards and Hall of Fame class are announced tonight
- the Winter Olympics are on
Manfred has consistently, happily buried baseball news. Meeting with the media today is like dropping a press release at 7 PM on a Friday.
If you want people to care about what you’re saying in sports, you don’t do it mid-morning on the day of the NBA trade deadline. Or on the day the NFL announces its new Hall of Famers and individual awards. Much less the day both happen.
Manfred did indicate that there is no change to the planned start date of Spring Training… which is supposed to begin with pitchers and catchers reporting as soon as this weekend. Which feels naive and/or incredibly confident.
However, Manfred also said he believes camps could open “within days” of the new CBA being done, and said realistically he thinks four weeks is enough Spring Training to get a regular start to the season with players prepared.
Manfred on the perception that MLB hasn’t been negotiating enough: “That’s a mutual responsibility of the bargaining parties. Phones work two ways.”
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) February 10, 2022
Manfred, who makes $11 million per year, has tinkered with baseball every chance he’s had as commissioner. Indeed, he’s spent more time and effort pointing out what’s wrong with the game (read: pace of play) than investing in marketing what might be the greatest collection of young talent the game has ever seen.
There’s money to be made by both sides right now, and negotiations are rarely easy in these situations. But more than any other professional sport, baseball should be painfully aware of the impact a lockout/strike can have on the financial health of the game.
1994 almost killed the game. Many fans still haven’t come back almost 30 years later. And it took a steroid-fueled generation of home run hitters and flame throwers for the game to sell itself to the masses again (thanks, Bud Selig).
Rob Manfred on starting the regular season on time: "I'm an optimist. I believe we will have an agreement in time to play our regular season schedule.'' He said it would be disastrous if the regular season was delayed or abbreviated.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) February 10, 2022
Now, two years into a global pandemic that has cost every major sport hundreds of millions — if not billions — of dollars, Manfred is leading the charge to lose games and more money. He claims to be an optimist, but he’s sharing his “optimism” for the first time 70 days after locking the players out.
Baseball fans deserve better.