Rob Manfred left his Wednesday appearance on the Dan Le Batard Show with a freshly torn new one, having received the full brunt of Le Batard’s wrath over the fire sale taking place in the Miami Marlins organization. Now The Big Lead is reporting that MLB officials “complained about the spot to the highest levels of ESPN management,” like whiny babies.
Manfred’s position on Le Batard’s show, which he was foolish enough to attempt to deliver in nasally, opaque corporate-speak, is that he was unaware of new Marlins owner Derek Jeter’s plans to cast off talent and slash payroll in order to offset the massive debt his ownership group incurred in purchasing the team from Jeffrey Loria. It’s horseshit, of course, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald told Spain and Fitz on ESPN radio (per The Big Lead):
“He was totally aware of it, and I think he was disingenuous in his interview with Dan Le Batard today. Now, you could parse words, and say that Manfred was correct in saying that he did not know that the Marlins specifically would trade Stanton, Gordon, and Ozuna, but for him to suggest that he was unaware that there would be significant payroll slashing is simply not accurate.
In order for Jeter and his business partner Bruce Sherman to get the team, they prepared this document, which was called Project Wolverine, for reasons unknown, and this document was circulated to potential investors — several of whom ended up investing — and it specifically said that under his plan payroll would be cut from $115 million last season to $90 million this year. Major league owners were aware of this plan. So was Rob Manfred. This came up during the approval process. So, for the Commissioner, and all due respect to him, but for him to go on Le Batard’s show today and say that he was unaware of this plan simply rings not accurate to me.”
The real cynicism in Manfred’s appearance shows when Le Batard expresses incredulity at the possibility that the commissioner’s office wouldn’t be aware of a potential ownership group’s future plans for a team, including how it expects to claw out from under a heap of debt:
“What about that doesn’t make sense? We don’t approve, dictate, or necessarily ask clubs what they’re going to do with respect to their individual operations. Those are local decisions that really are not part of the approval process.”
Manfred’s lifeline is insisting upon waging this battle only in the most specific terms—did the league know which specific players the Marlins would move, and on what specific timeline, the kinds of things that really are just local decisions made by a baseball organization—but that’s not what Le Batard is asking. The question is whether Manfred knew that the Marlins were going to prioritize becoming a cheap baseball operation over staying a reasonably competitive baseball operation, and the answer is obviously “yes,” because of course it is.
The missing word in Manfred’s list of things MLB doesn’t do in their dealings with potential owners—approve, dictate, fucking ask—is “care.” They don’t care! In assessing the fit of a prospective team owner, does the league give a rip whether they plan on turning their baseball operation into a flea circus? No, Dan, we do not. Professional sports team ownership is a business wherein a bunch of uber wealthy men position themselves to become more wealthy, with this or that sport and this or that league as the trading floor. A commissioner’s office that neither approves, influences, nor even asks about the actual baseball plans of a prospective ownership group doesn’t fucking care what those plans might be. Rob Manfred, of course, can’t say that on the radio.
But it’s clear that MLB does care about its commissioner being made to look like a jerk-ass sucker on live radio. I suppose next we’ll learn, via any potential punishment of Le Batard, how much ESPN, a Major League Baseball broadcast partner, cares about Manfred’s bruised ego.