If something isn’t broken, it doesn’t require fixing. It’s a mentality Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred cannot seem to grasp.
The implementation of so many changes that are “needed” to enforce the pace of play is not only pointless, it’s a joke. And as we creep into the fourth week of regular season play this year, it’s creating a message that he doesn’t have respect for the game and how it has been played for more than a century.
Take Manfred commissioning Rawlings to make a baseball with a “tacky leather surface to enhance the grip,” for example. It’s not a potential “fix” that sits well with a top baseball prospect interviewed by Sportsnaut, who chose to remain anonymous.
“I think baseball is good as it is now.”
As we concluded the interview, the prospect told Sportsnaut “it is what it is, I guess.” This was following his comments on the new intentional walk rule, which he was a bit more outspoken against.
“It’s stupid,” he explained. “It could determine a ballgame.”
The comments reflect countless others across the industry by current and former baseball players at each level. They also stretch out to members of the media who wonder if the commissioner favors the game of baseball at all.
I think maybe Rob Manfred hates baseball
— Kyle Madson (@KyleAMadson) February 8, 2017
Tacky baseballs and getting rid of the intentional walk (which ultimately passed) were just a few of the many changes Commissioner Manfred has tried to implement since taking over.
He’s wanted to raise the strike zone, limit the amount of time a manager has to decide whether to make a replay-review challenge, limiting relief pitching and has even and moved towards opening the door to bringing betting back to baseball.
The re-examination on the stance on gambling in baseball is particularly interesting. We covered this in February when Manfred based it around “more fan engagement.” That and the pace of play seems to be a recurring theme. He also said it’s happening whether we want to admit it or not, which is how he has addressed some of these “changes.”
“It’s happening out there,” said Manfred. “So I think the question for sports is really, ‘Are we better off in a world where we have a nice, strong, uniform, federal regulation of gambling that protects the integrity of sports, provides sports with the tools to ensure that there is integrity in the competition … Or are we better off closing our eyes to that and letting it go on as illegal gambling? And that’s a debatable point.”
This would open up a can of worms on whether Pete Rose should be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. It would also open the floodgates for the legalization of daily fantasy sports among other things, and it’s still unclear if Manfred wants to tackle those issues.
In regard to relievers, the talking points are “slowing down the game” and “robs action out of the end of the game.”
These also doesn’t make any sense considering relievers have brought so much into baseball in recent years.
Instead, he wants to stress over cutting out 45 seconds per game by having a manager give a signal from the dugout.
"I'm dis many yeaws old…" pic.twitter.com/1Uaim1bnks
— Jessica Kleinschmidt (@KleinschmidtJD) April 11, 2017
It’s confusing to think about what Manfred is trying to accomplish.
He’s not receiving a lot of support in his mission either.
His relationship with the MLB Player’s Association is tumultuous. The tenth elected commissioner has not been able to have a sense of communication with those in a big league uniform. This is not only important but vital if he wants any success at all over his term. If he does want to take a stand, that’s fine, but if you lose the respect of the players that are the most important aspect of the game, you will fail.
Modernizing the game is possible, but there’s a difference between adaptation and altering the game altogether. It seems he’s trying to turn it into a game we won’t recognize.
Fans of the game already struggle to try to and defend the game. I can’t tell you how many times I have spoken until breathless saying America’s Pastime was not slow and it was the greatest game ever played. And how you can’t deny the emotions it gives you that other sports can’t seem to do. It’s exhausting.
If Manfred wants to bring new fans into a game and adjust some things to make it more “appealing,” then why not enhance those things instead of painting a negative picture around them?
He is creating too many enemies, and we have yet to hit the All-Star break this season. It’s a wall that will continuously crumble if we don’t find a happy medium.
We don’t believe Rob Manfred wants to hurt baseball. He has a legacy he’s trying to build, and it will only be viewed as successful if what he does ends up benefiting baseball. But despite his best intentions, his efforts are only hurting the game.
Let the game be.