Rob Manfred met with Phillies players, other teams as he attempts to save face after lockout disaster
Major League Baseball’s commissioner, Rob Manfred, has to be the most unpopular executive professional sports has seen in ages.
Players openly call him ManClown and ManFraud, fans booed him at the 2020 World Series, and he’d be wise not to search his own name on Twitter.
By comparison, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell looks, well, better than he would otherwise.
When he officially announced the end of the lockout earlier this month, Manfred made a surprisingly accurate and self-aware statement:
"“One of the things I’m supposed to do is promote a good relationship with our players. I’ve tried to do that. I have not been successful in that.”"
No lies detected.
Since then, Manfred has been on a goodwill mission of sorts, trying to repair his relationship with the players, which wasn’t exactly strong before. He’s already met with players from several clubs and claims he will do so with each of the 30 teams. During the lockout, Philadelphia Phillies star Rhys Hoskins, the team’s player rep, had been somewhat vocal on social media. This week, he opened up about Manfred’s visit to Clearwater:
"“I think those conversations are needed, quite frankly, for him to really get a good perspective of the way that the people playing the game on the field feel.I hope there’s more. I really do. I assume that there’s going to be. I hope it lasts longer than a couple months after the lockout.”via The Athletic (subscription required)"
Most noteworthy in Hoskins’ statement is that he seems unconvinced that Manfred will continue trying to foster a relationship with players after the bad press dies down. He also said the conversation was not “all butterflies and rainbows,” but felt that it was “truthful and honest from both sides.”
Red Sox super-utilityman Kiké Hernández said Manfred “seems honest in trying to make amends.”
After everything we’ve seen over the last seven years or even the 99 days of lockout, I’m not buying it.
Above all else, it feels like Manfred is trying to save his own skin, which shouldn’t surprise to anyone who has followed his career as commissioner. He was not a slam-dunk candidate to replace Bud Selig in 2014; it took six rounds of voting to elect him. The pandemic and lockout made his proverbial approval ratings considerably worse, though Manfred is also largely in a mess of his own making.
He has done nothing to endear himself to players or fans, seems to show no appreciation for baseball itself, and has made decisions that, while they line the pockets of the league and team owners, slowly destroy the essence of the game he’s supposed to protect and nurture. He called the World Series trophy – also known as the commissioner’s trophy – a “piece of metal,” and before the lockout ended, he stood up in front of the world, laughing and smiling while announcing games would be canceled.
Everything is more expensive; almost no one is happier.
Yes, Manfred is a puppet mouthpiece of the owners, but he is also careless about how he behaves as the person in charge of something millions of others care about immensely. His words are a series of repeated slaps in the face to the players who have worked hard to bring baseball to life throughout the pandemic, and the fans who have relied on it to keep them going more than two years into this ordeal.
Hoskins is right to be wary; we’ve seen too much to think things will change.