ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR
Does MLB commissioner Rob Manfred like baseball? That seems to be a valid question with his actions this off-season.
Manfred has been under high scrutiny all off-season, but the criticism placed on him didn’t start this year. Everyone knows his main goal since becoming commissioner has been to quicken the pace of play to attract younger audiences. He’s been trying to do this since 2014 and has failed.
Rules that he has put in place to speed up the game have been: batters to not step out of the box in between pitches, managers have 30 seconds to decide if they want to challenge a play or not, teams only have seven mound visits a game, managers are to tell the home plate umpire they are intentionally walking a batter instead of a pitcher throwing four pitches, and now relievers have to face a minimum of three batters in each appearance in this upcoming season. None of these rule changes have been effective as the average game time last season was 3 hours, 5 minutes, and 35 seconds long, longest game time average in MLB history.
Here’s an idea to attract younger viewers. Instead of trying to speed up the nation’s pastime, why not just do a better job at marketing the players? NBA and NFL is all over social media. Highlights from their game’s superstars are posted immediately after they happen.
Players are able to express themselves more in the NBA and NFL while they’re on the court or field. MLB players aren’t even allowed to wear what cleats they want to express themselves. Meanwhile fans of the NBA are buying the shoes Lebron James wears every night.
Now, as we approach spring training games this week, Rob Manfred’s approval rating must be at an all-time low. After former Astro pitcher Mike Fiers told The Athletic about their trash can sign stealing scheme during the 2017 championship run, Manfred conducted an investigation of the Houston Astros from 2017-19. The problem? Teams around the league complained about the Astros actions long before Fiers enlightened the world. Why did Manfred and MLB wait for a former player to say something to start taking action?
“You have to understand usually when we get a report, there are no facts surrounding it. That’s a difficult thing to deal with what’s going on,” said Manfred.
You may have a point there, Mr. Commissioner, but if multiple teams are taking the time to send you a formal report about what the Astros and other teams are doing, why not just take a look into the allegations? I don’t see how just ignoring the reports was a better option.
Of course, it doesn’t stop there for Manfred. We were told the punishment for the Astros was going to be severe; something we’ve never seen before. The punishment to many fans however, didn’t reach the hype. Manfred gave Houston a $5 million fine, loss of first and second round draft picks in 2020 and 2021, and suspended Houston manager, AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Lunhow for one season. Tell me if I’m wrong, but we’ve seen all these types punishments handed down before. The fact that was the cost the Astros had to pay to get a ring makes the punishment feel like a slap on the wrist.
In Manfred’s report, it clearly states the scheme was “player driven.” Yet no players were suspended. Not one player for one single game. Why did the players get to walk away from this with no real consequences? Because Manfred gave them full immunity if they told him the truth. So what’s the lesson here? If I rob a bank and I tell the cop I did the crime, can I not get arrested and keep the money just because I was honest? If he didn’t grant them immunity the only thing that would have happened is the investigation would have taken longer. There still would have gotten all the information needed to see the Astros cheated during the 2017-18 season. The icing on the cake in this situation is if a pitcher retaliates by purposely throwing at them, they’ll face suspensions, fines, etc. I get it, you don’t ever want to advocate violence and you want to protect the players, but its just ironic how pitchers will get suspended longer that an Astro player involved in one of the biggest cheating scandals in baseball history.
“The public airing of what went on here is a form of discipline and maybe the most powerful deterrent of anything we did here.”
Sorry Manfred, public shaming just isn’t enough. The Astros still have their ring and are still getting payed millions of dollars to play a kid’s game. In the end, the Astros will be seen as the winners since they got to keep their World Series trophy – or “a piece of metal,” as Manfred called it.