Guest article by Colby Wilson (@CWilson225 on the Twitters)
I don’t think there’s any sort of requirement to being a sports commissioner, per se, that they like the sport in question. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t seem to like anything except for the cold, dead logic permeating his very soul in a manner aroused only by the deflation or inflation of footballs. God knows NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman only enjoys being booed by thousands of people every time he appears in public.
But Rob Manfred? It’s kind of hard to tell what he likes, beyond ideas. Big on ideas, this guy. He’s been big about bandying them about, and he’s done it with the same air of a chef throwing spaghetti noodles against the wall—if it sticks, it’s ready. He’d like you to know he’s got these ideas, and he’d like for you to hear them, but only if that’s something that you also think you might like.
You can probably spot a problem in this line of logic in 2019. Any moron can create a Twitter poll (“Better for the environment: fossil fuels or birds?”) and there are a non-zero number of raisin cakes out there who will take the results as gospel. There are a million people who will sign any psychotic petition on Change.org, and Manfred is treating his every utterance like a petition to be considered, commented on and then action taken.
IT’S NOT LIKE THAT MY GUY. Every single lunatic thing that comes up doesn’t have to be something you try out in the Atlantic League, which Manfred is treating like a dadgum test kitchen instead of a professional baseball league. I know it’s wacky to have people steal first base, but I don’t really want wacky with my baseball, thank you very much. Baseball is wacky enough without the gadgetry.
I want baseball with my baseball.
It’s fine to want baseball to be better. I myself have some qualms with how things have been done around the Grand Old Game. But most of the issues I and many others have with it don’t have much to do with the product on the field. Baseball as a game is pretty good! Lots of nice plays are made by very talented players, and they do pretty cool shit when they throw, hit and catch the baseball. Players throw harder, hit more consistently majestic homers and make slicker plays than at any point in the history of the game. There’s no possible way to classify that, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Or not, I don’t care either way. I know contrarians love this place (‘this place’ being Knockahoma, Twitter or the internet in general).
Manfred’s problem can best be summed up by Dr. Ian Malcolm in the OG Jurassic Park: He’s so obsessed with whether or not he can do something, he doesn’t really stop to consider whether he should do it. And the answer, by and large, is that you should not good sir.
For the life of me, I can’t figure out why this guy looked around at what he inherited from Bud Selig and arrived at the conclusion that it required much more than a nip and a tuck from a gameplay standpoint. Outside of Queens, people in baseball are smarter than they’ve ever been—shifts, the opener, nontraditional lineup construction, specialists—and somehow, smart baseball people are being punished for baseballing this way. There is more than one way to skin this cat, yet Baseball has taken a Marxist approach to this, insisting on ruling and regulating everyone into a common order.
And it’s wrong.
I understand that baseball is petrified of its place in the pecking order in 2019. Try being a danged millennial and telling people you love baseball—you may as well cop to being a flapper. But what baseball should probably understand is that it’s 2019, not 1969. Football is a behemoth and the NBA has managed to make itself the most marketable league on earth. Baseball hasn’t done either of these things. This is not an accusation or a call to arms—it just sort of happened and then kept happening and now we’re here and baseball is very firmly third among major American sports leagues. I’m very sorry you heard it here.
So if you were a commissioner inheriting this lot in life, as Rob Manfred did—make no mistake, he didn’t bumfuzzle baseball’s way down the pecking order—what would you do? If your answer is, “The same thing Rob Manfred has done,” hey congrats, you probably shouldn’t be the commissioner of baseball either.
There’s a way forward, of course. But it requires the kind of acceptance of baseball’s lot that Rob Manfred, lovable doof, isn’t capable of giving. He could accept that baseball is not the top sport in America anymore and probably hasn’t been in 20 years. He could accept that the appeal of baseball lies in its traditions, in resembling the same game that was played by Ken Griffey Jr., Hank Aaron, Joe DiMaggio and Wee Willie Keeler. Keep the 25-man roster. Let managers waste a pitcher for one pitch, if he so chooses. Even keep the designated hitter in the American League only, so the NL can pretend it’s real baseball and the AL can pretend that never having a pitcher hit is somehow a better brand of baseball. I don’t care if baseball games take four hours. That’s because I like baseball. I want to spend as much time with baseball as possible. And I don’t think the commissioner feels the same way.
Colby Wilson is a guest writer for Knockahoma Nation. He has previously written for Tomahawk Take and Baseball Prospectus, and is a self defined “curmudgeon”. If you enjoyed this article (or hated it) argue with him on the twitters @CWilson225. A special thanks to Colby from Knockahoma Nation for bringing some reason and common sense to us unreasonable knuckleheads.