Rob Manfred Bad for Baseball


I have to get something off my chest, new commissioner Rob Manfred is already bothering me. He has made it clear his main goal is to speed up the game in order to create a more exciting and marketable experience.

But is speeding up the game the right move for baseball?

From a business perspective, I understand Manfred’s position. He needs to bring more excitement to the game, and if he can do that by shortening the lengths of games, so be it. 

But here’s the deal. People who think baseball is “too slow” and “too boring” are never going to be committed fans whether or not the games are ten minutes shorter than usual.

Those who argue that baseball lacks excitement have already missed the nuances and fascinating intricacies of the game that prolong action.

As the legendary Bill Veeck said, “This is a game to be savored, not gulped. There’s time to discuss everything between pitches or between innings.”

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I’ll be honest, new pitch clocks do not have a negative impact on the game. At the Mets-Cardinals contest I attended last week, each pitcher seemed to have plenty of time to get their work in before the umpire called the batter in the box. Plus, these clocks will not appear in the major leagues.

MLB is only enforcing this rule in Double-A and Triple-A. So no issue, right? 

Absolutely not. The principle of the rule is outrageous.

Undoubtedly this enforcement will come to the majors soon enough, which will not be a huge issue. But when that time comes, how can we know what will be to follow?

Is Manfred planning on limiting the length of manager’s arguments to thirty seconds, or starting each at-bat in a 1-1 count? He may not go to such extremes, but the point is this man cannot be trusted!

Baseball has the richest history and continuity any sport. I can take stats from Honus Wagner and, after taking into account different eras, compare his number to those of Derek Jeter and other great shortstops.

I can talk to my grandfather about watching Babe Ruth play the same game that I participate in and write about today. 

At the very least, though, Manfred’s new rules and ideas are compromising the best part of our favorite sport.

Once Manfred implements his terrible idea to ‘lock’ defenders in their positions, eliminating the shift, how are we supposed to compare the numbers of pre-shift players to those who follow the rule?

What if Manfred decides to start hitters mid-count in order to accomplish a quicker game that has more offense, killing two proverbial birds with one stone. How then can we say that Babe Ruth played the same game as modern athletes?

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And it’s not just the detailed history that makes baseball great, it is the intangibles.

The fake bunts, the butcher’s boys, the shaken-off signs, the steps outside the box, the fixings of the batting gloves, and the adjusting of the helmets. Without these little acts, baseball would have an entirely different identity.

If Manfred had the choice, not doubt would he limit all these activities to their bare existence. Just watch as, let’s say in two years, the umpire must call a strike the second time a batter fixes his gloves! 

We do not need a commissioner who focus on only the monetary value of the game. We already had those problems with Bud Selig.

Yes, Selig did impose strict penalties on recent steroid users, but no doubt did he sit back and watch the Sammy Sosa’s of the world bring baseball back to the common fan. 

Now, in the new offensively-starved MLB, baseball is experiencing another dip in popularity. While the Superbowl breaks television records annually, the World Series generated no more views than a typical “The Big Bang Theory” episode.

Sad as that may be, we will not regain fans through by speeding up the game. 

The game does not lack excitement because it is too long or lacks offense, as Manfred surely suspects. Tell that to those who saw Sandy Koufax, Carl Yastrzemski, Bob Feller, and other all-time greats strut their stuff during the offensively futile 1960s and 70s.

And looking back only a half-year, who could call Madison Bumgarner’s epic 2014 World Series performance “boring”? 

I hope that Rob Manfred realizes there is nothing wrong with a pitching-dominant league. After all, whether he admits it or not, that is the true motivator behind his radical changes.

Speeding up the game, in principle has yet to induce any negative effects, but it is wrong for baseball.

I do not want one commissioner destroying the continuity, lavish history, and the intangibles of the sport I love.