Manfred’s proposal makes a mockery of the MLB


Howard Simmons/New York Daily News/TNS

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred before the New York Yankees take on the Minnesota Twins in the American League Wild Card game at Yankee Stadium in New York on Oct. 3, 2017.

By Ben Bobeck, Senior Staff Writer

Perhaps Rob Manfred would like Vince MacMahon’s job. The latter’s position as the head of entertainment giant WWE — emphasis on entertainment, as opposed to sport — is surely secure. But the current Major League Baseball commissioner has demonstrated such a flair for seeking out unnecessary dramatic elements to add to America’s pastime that perhaps he could give ol’ Vince a run for his money as America’s greatest showman.

The latest ploy from Manfred in his ongoing efforts to increase television revenue for baseball among declining attendance and decreasing TV numbers is to introduce an expanded playoff format whose centerpiece would be a live selection show in which each league’s second- and third-seeded division winners choose their first-round opponent live on TV for the whole world to see, per the New York Post.

The Post article describes the league’s motivation as attempting to sell the intrigue and strategy behind — to take last season’s American League standings as an example — the Yankees deciding whether to host their arch-rival the Red Sox or the Cleveland Indians.

This comes as Manfred and the MLB have decided that there are 40 too many minor league baseball teams around the country.

This comes as Manfred opted to not unleash sanctions on the players allegedly at the heart of the trash can-banging, sign-stealing scheme of the Houston Astros.

This comes as Manfred has already attacked what he believes is the core issue with baseball’s declining viewership — pace of play — with such innovative measures as adding an inning clock to encourage pitchers to warm up quicker between innings, as well as a new rule this season limiting the number of pitchers allowed each half-inning. 

Other suggestions from the commissioner’s office that may have to hold off until the next round of Collective Bargaining include a universal DH (I’m firmly against this but that’s a whole other can of worms), the introduction of pitch clocks as tested in spring training of last season and even the possibility of starting each extra inning with a runner on second to speed up the conclusion of lengthy games.

The beauty of baseball is in its simplistic complexities, its ability to amaze through the unthinkable happenings of each season — especially come playoff season each October.

A team that started the season 19-31 and had never won a playoff series going on to take down two 100-win teams — including the maligned Houston team seeking its second title in three years — to bring home the World Series? Improbable and unlikely, yet still the result of last season’s playoffs, as the world champion Washington Nationals perfectly encapsulated the magic of October baseball.

The truth is that Manfred’s outrageous proposal will likely (read — hopefully) never see the field of play. Why, then, was the timing of this report surely leaked to the NY Post by some credible source? Perhaps the world turning its sights on Manfred and the league’s administration over the disappointing and unacceptable result of the Astros’ disciplinary process has something to do with it.

Too bad the red herring being thrown out by the league only further demonstrates the incapability of its current commissioner.

Throughout Manfred’s tenure as commissioner, the league has focused entirely too much on padding the pockets of its billionaire governors while seeming incapable of grasping the real issues driving fans away. Manfred is all too eager to increase revenues while ignoring baseball’s core issues of disproportionate spending between the top and bottom teams, the continued disgusting conditions and exploitation of the game’s minor leaguers and blackout regulations that choke off access to younger, less affluent fans through expensive, controlled access to online streaming.

It’s time for more change in baseball’s highest office and less on the field.

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To read why TPN staff writer Marshall Worth thinks Manfred’s proposal is actually a good thing, click here.