Rob Manfred deserves the criticism he’s receiving from players and fans alike
Major League Baseball has been a hot topic lately, and for good reason. Perhaps the hottest pot close to boiling is that of current MLB Commissioner, Rob Manfred. The 10th-ever commissioner has been in charge for five seasons and at the time he was hired, the MLB was entering a transition stage after Bud Selig had been in charge for over two decades. The game was looking to re-establish its integrity post steroid era.
Rob Manfred started working in baseball in 1998 and frankly had a front-row seat to what would then become the unraveling of the most controversial time in baseball, or at least until recently. Players gaining advantages by being able to throw harder, run faster and send the ball to the moon and back by the use of anabolic steroids sounds like blatant cheating to most.
And, even the implementation of the Wild Card round in the postseason could help former commissioner Selig out of the hole he dug himself. He will forever be known as the man at the helm during the game’s worst of times. The all-famous Mitchell Report tells us that Selig turned a blind eye to all the wrong-doing, convincing us that perhaps the commissioner wasn’t upholding the game’s integrity to the best of his ability. Or at all for that matter.
Before we take a look at Manfred, let’s look at what history reveals. As mentioned earlier, Major League Baseball has been under the power of 10 total commissioners dating all-the-way back to 1920. Throughout the 100 years, baseball has been without controversy under just one commissioner. ONE. Happy Chandler was baseball’s commissioner from 1945-1951. Fortunately for the game, Chandler was known for being “pro-player” which couldn’t have been more perfect for an era that ushered in Jackie Robinson who made history by breaking the color barrier in 1947.
The same can’t be said for the other nine commissioners though who have been nothing but trouble. Baseball’s first-ever commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, was known for being responsible for banning the eight players from the Black Sox Scandal after “throwing” the 1919 World Series. One of the game’s best at the time, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, were banned for life as a part of the scandal. In the series, Jackson led both teams in several statistical categories and set a record for the most base-hits in a World Series with 12.
Ford Frick (1951-1965), who was the third commissioner after Chandler, tried his hardest to ensure Babe Ruth’s status in the record book. Frick went on record in 1961, saying that baseball should have separate record books depending on how many games were played in the season. At the time of his comments, multiple hitters were on pace to break the Babe’s single-season home run record in 1961. Frick was later discovered as a “ghostwriter” supporting Babe Ruth earlier in his career.
William Eckert (1965-68) was forced out of the position after three short years on the job. The reason being that he lost complete trust from both the owners and players at the tail-end of his job and was known for being voted into the position despite not having seen a baseball game in over 10 years. Bowie Kuhn (1969-1984) banned Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle for their involvement in a casino promotion in ‘79 and ‘83 before they were reinstated after Kuhn was gone. Kuhn’s time was also marked by labor strikes and the owner’s disagreement as well.
Peter Ueberroth (1984-1989) couldn’t have been more “anti-player” as he accused the players of colluding during free agency, not just once but three separate times. Those cases with the MLB Players Association would cost owner’s over a total of 280 million in fines after he left the job to A. Bartlett Giamatti and Fay Vincent.
Giamatti wasn’t even the commissioner for a full-year, in fact, he was the commissioner for 154 days in 1989. Just enough time to ban Pete Rose from the game of baseball forever though before he died just eight days later. Rose, who’s considered one of the greatest players ever remains banned for life and is ineligible for the Hall of Fame.
After Giamatti’s unexpected death in 1989, Vincent was in charge until 1992 when Selig took over. Vincent banned George Steinbrenner from the game of baseball forever at the time in 1990 for an incident between him and one of his players. Steinbrenner was reinstated by Selig in 1993.
I think the point I am trying to make is pretty clear. Major League Baseball seems to have a systemic problem starting from the top down. The culture of professional baseball has been involved in controversy for decades. And, owners don’t think you aren’t guilty in this process either, because you are. You’re the ones enabling this process to happen time and time again, voting the wrong commissioner into the chair again-and-again. It’s safe to say that based on the history of the game, baseball needs a drastic change, and badly. In fact, they needed it 50 years ago.
All that to say, that current commissioner Rob Manfred is just another chapter in this story. His decisions to grant the Houston Astros players immunity in this entire process has led to open criticism from some of the game’s top players. Fans have fallen in agreement, calling for Manfred’s head and rightfully so. And to be fair, this Astros scandal is actually just one of the multiple bones I and others have to pick with you Mr. Manfred.
Major League Baseball hasn’t changed nor will it. The only constant throughout history in this beautiful game is its always been about those that wear the find themselves between the white lines on a nightly basis. Don’t get it twisted, the game is, was and always will be about the players that play it and if the MLB’s commissioner (whoever it might be) can’t understand that, the game won’t ever reach its full potential.