Rob Manfred: 5 Challenges that Await New MLB Commissioner

Rob ManfredRob Manfred will take the reins of running Major League Baseball from Bud Selig next week and become the 10th commissioner of the game of baseball.  Even though most fans might disagree (especially Oakland A’s fans) Bud Selig is leaving the game in a much better place than when he took over two decades ago.  The game has labor peace, team revenue is up, the game has a robust national TV package, MLB launched a website, an app, its has it’s own 24 hour day satellite radio channel on Sirius XM (you can catch me on MLB Network Radio most weekends) and its very own 24 hour a day cable TV channel.  Despite the PED Era history will look kindly upon the reign of Commissioner Alan “Bud” Selig.

So what will be there for Rob Manfred to do when he takes over as the Commissioner of Baseball other than sign his name on the official ball of Major League Baseball and sit back and try not to screw up the money machine that Bud has passed off to him.  Most commissioners have an early moment in their term that defines them and gives us a look into what kind of ruler they will be.

Adam Silver who took over from David Stern had to deal with Donald T. Sterling right off the bat.  Gary Bettman had labor problems, and Roger Goodell is still stepping in it left and right beginning with bounty gate, and on through Ray Rice and Adrian Petterson.

I am not a fortune teller so I am not going to try and predict what unforeseen situation will challenge Commissioner Manfred, but there are some outstanding issues that are waiting for him when he sits down at his desk.  Here is my list of things that he will have to deal with that are already “CHALLENGES” we face in baseball.

1)  Pace of Play.  Baseball is a game that has no clock and it is played at it’s own pace.  Unfortunitly the pace of play is scoffed at by three toed sloths that find the game even too slow for them.  Years ago I would hear my colleagues moan and complain about how slow the game was going.

I think they complained because they were on deadline, had a plane to catch, or more likely had dinner reservations they were trying to get to.  But in 2014 the game became even too slow for me.  I found myself trying to make sure I kept paying attention while the game dragged on.

Managers slowly walking out to talk to umpire while they waited for a hand signal yea or nea to challenge a call on the field.  We already had multiple pitching changes in one inning followed by pinch hitters followed by a mound visit.  We had players stepping out of the box to adjust their batting gloves and pitchers touching the rosin bag for the millionth time it seemed like.

Not to mention pitchers who can’t throw strikes and hitters who can’t work the count.  Someone please get me a red bull and a 5 Hour Energy chaser.  Americans are getting shorter and shorter attention spans thanks to twitter and social media. Baseball needs to realize that everything is quicker paced and more immedaite and if baseball doesn’t catch up it might be left behind.

2) The Power of the Shield.  I read Pete Rozelle’s biography a few years ago, and there was a story that we would pop a bottle champaign after the end of the World Series because baseball was finally over and now America would start paying attention to the NFL.  Oh have times changed.  The NFL is King no doubt about.

How would you like to be Rob Manfred and your watching the exciting action of the greatest World Series and in the middle of game you hear Joe Buck reading a promo for the Packers and the Cowboys, WOW, on your biggest stage, your TV partner is promoting someone else.  The NFL has plans to be a year round event.

The Super Bowl, NFL Combines, NFL Draft, Hall of Fame, Pre-Season Football, Regular Season, and then the playoffs and back to the Super Bowl.  Turn on any sports talk station in August and all you will hear is NFL training camp talk period.  Commissioner Manfred is going to have to fight back the biggest Death Star out there that has global domination on their mind.

3) Youth Pipeline to the Big Leagues.  Baseball has recognized that it has an issue getting young African Americans to play the game.  MLB organized and and funds RBI Reviving Baseball in the Inner City which tries to introduce the game to kids in neighborhoods that don’t have safe fields to play on or the equipment.

I see MLB having a bigger challenge than getting inner city kids to play the game, I think baseball is going to have a problem that is just beginning right now, and that is getting any kid to the play the game of baseball.  I am a board member of my local Little League and my 14 year old son has played since he was 5 years old.  The youth game is getting out of control and getting so expensive that very very soon it will become a game that only the kids of wealthy parents can play.   Do you want to get your kid a good bat, get ready to shell out $300 bucks.

Want to sign up for youth baseball get your check book and write one for at least $100 for most local leagues.  If your son shows promise and is asked to play on a travel league team get ready to get a second job because it will cost you thousands.  If that isn’t enough, you will also have the time on top of money to run your son all over the state for games.  Some of the these kids play so much and are pressed to win so hard they burn out quit the game.

It is not about fun it’s about winning no matter what.  Think I am wrong, ask Dr. Frank Andrews how many Tommy John surgeries he does on 12 and 13 year olds, and you will shake your head.  Youth baseball has forgotten it’s for children and instead it thinks it’s it the minor leagues of the minor leagues.

If Commissioner Manfred doesn’t address it sooner rather than later, we could start facing a shortage of domestic players because of burn out, injuries, or lack off access to youth baseball because of it’s expense.

4) The Oakland Coliseum.  The Oakland A’s are good enough to have Brad Pitt make a movie about them but aren’t good enough to get a new ballpark.  Believe it or not they are one of the most storied franchises in baseball with Nine World Series Trophies.

They are also one of the most vagabond in the game bouncing from Philadelphia to Kansas City to Oakland.  The Coliseum was amazing when I was a kid, but now it sits like a former All Star who stayed past his prime.  The sewage backs up during games and floods the dugouts.  The A’s want to move to San Jose and San Jose wants the A’s to move there, makes sense right?

Trouble is that San Jose is Giants property and the Giants don’t want to share.   The A’s can’t keep playing in their ballpark and it seems that neither the Giants or the A’s are going to budge one bit.

5)  Pete Rose.  Rob Manfred hasn’t even had his named stamped on the baseballs yet and fans want to know what will happen with Charlie Hustle.  Enough time has passed and like everything else people look back with nostalgia on the past.  Fans over wheleming want to see Pete Rose in Cooperstown and seem to forgive him.

But in order to let him in the Hall of Fame you have to let him back in to the game.  You can’t let him in the Hall of Fame without letting him back in the game.  With the new commissioner fans of Pete will see an opportunity to sway a new set of ears that might welcome him into baseball’s valhalla.

Good Luck Commissioner Manfred and God Speed.  Oh by the way, if you want any help or advice just let me know, and if you don’t want my advice, don’t worry I give it you whether you like it or not.