Don’t blame Rob Manfred. It is a mistake. A mistake I have made as recently as last week. Yet, is it really Manfred’s fault? The labor negotiations between Major League Baseball and the Players Association turned from bad to worse before it culminated in the commissioner announcing a 60-game season. The players have agreed to report on July 1st for what many are calling Spring Training 2.0. The season is set to begin on July 23rd/24th. However, the nasty public nature of these negotiations has caused damage to baseball that may be irreparable. Furthermore, it cost baseball the chance to be the only sport on television for a full month, which would have put it back in the spotlight it hasn’t had since McGuire and Sosa. Many will blame Rob Manfred for that. Don’t. It’s not his fault. The issue is with the MLB Commissionership as a whole.
The Commissionership Problem
What many fail to realize is that Rob Manfred is essentially a mouthpiece for the owners across baseball. The commissioner of baseball is appointed by the owners, paid by the owners, and is fired by the owners. Therefore, the commissioner will always act in favor of the owners in any debate between employees and employers. While many would like to believe the commissioner is in service of baseball’s best interest, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Most of the time the commissioner is just an extension of the owners.
The issue with that is that the owners often care little about the success of the game of baseball and rather are more concerned with making a profit. For many of the owners, Major League franchises are just assets that make them money until they can sell them for more money. They have no concern for the longevity of the game. This has been one of the many reasons why baseball has fallen behind the NFL and NBA when it comes to sports. The NFL and NBA are much better about extending the game to the grassroots and are concerned with growing the game. All the while MLB is focused on restricting viewership of Major League cities being able to watch home team games.
Solving the MLB Commissionership Problem
Solving the MLB commissionership problem won’t be easy. Nothing is. However, there is a way forward. Just like appointing a Supreme Court Judge, there should be a mutual agreement on appointing the commissioner of baseball. The players should have a say in who gets appointed as commissioner. The person that is elected commissioner should be in the service of the game of baseball alone. They should be completely independent of both the owners and the players. Essentially the MLB Commissioner would be the supreme court of baseball. Instead of having a commissioner like Rob Manfred, who is just a stooge for the owners, let’s change the system and allow the players to have equal footing as the owners in deciding who becomes commissioner. Will this work? I have no idea, but the status quo simply can not remain. If it does, it could be the end of baseball.
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