MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred doesn’t strike me as the type of person I’d want running damage control on anything. He’s neither charismatic or empathetic and his knowledge and passion for the business side of baseball clearly hinders his stance on the game itself. But within a week, Commissioner Manfred told us there is a “100%” chance a season will happen to now shift, saying he is no longer confident a season will be played.
Those who know me know that the first question I’d ask Commissioner Manfred if I had the chance is, “What is it specifically that justifies MLB’s anti-trust exemption in this modern economy and how do you expect to grow the game when you hold such contempt, from a labor perspective, towards Minor League Baseball players?” But after that, I’d ask the commissioner to reflect on his top five priorities as established when he first took office.
When the best player in the National League takes to twitter to retweet a thread from another high profile player that publicly calls you a liar, commissioner, and the owners that you work for, I’d say you’re really struggling with your number four priority, “Strengthening Player Relations”. Baseball salaries have now remained stagnant for four years.
Just last September, I made my way to St. Louis’s new Busch Stadium to check another ballpark off my list. The game was rained out, but the newly constructed state of the art Ballpark Village across the street was jam packed. The place was elbow to elbow and it was impossible to order a drink at any of the bars. The profits lost due to a rain out were minimal. In fact, because of margins and the fact that many people were not able to use their rain check, it is entirely possible the Cardinals ownership group made more money that evening that they do on game days.
Anecdotal stories aside, profits for owners have continued to skyrocket while player salaries remain stagnant. This situation is disastrous for baseball. But make no mistake about it, MLB has always been explicitly anti-labor. As was demonstrated during the 1994 player strike, it’s nearly impossible to humanize a group of people who make, on average, $4,400,000 to play a game. If anyone can though, it’s an out of touch group of billionaire white men refusing to honor an agreement they already signed.
Check out Jay Jaffe's FanGraphs chat yesterday where he guesses the eight owners that are standing the way of an agreement.