The thing about work stoppages in sports, and really anywhere involving a very well-known company, is that P.R. is a part of it. Rob Manfred is, somehow, the first commissioner to get most of the public to back the players’ side, as he did during the pandemic when the owners and players were trying to figure out what the 2020 season would look like. It sounds strange that fans would side with billionaire owners over the labor force in previous work stoppages, but that’s how it worked, mostly, I think, because fans see the players every day and rarely if ever the owners. Who knows?
Anyway, the previous commissioners were able to stay out of the way of that, until Manfred showed up. That’s how unlikable and poorly presented a weasel he is.
He’s apparently going to do something about it, though in the same sniveling, tone-deaf fashion that his entire stint as commissioner has been. Yesterday, one of the most reputable reporters in baseball, Ken Rosenthal, was let go by MLB Network. And it’s supposedly because Rosenthal took the very tame and logical position of pointing out how Manfred was fucking up negotiations for the 2020 season.
Now, no one thinks MLB Network is ever going to be a bastion of journalistic integrity or brilliance. It is a wing of the league office, after all. It is their official bullhorn. But still, having Rosenthal on gave it some credibility amongst fans that they might, just might, get some actual reporting. Leaving it to the likes of John Heyman, whose spine is question mark shaped given the amount of water he carries for the owners, erases all that.
This is how Manfred and the owners will try and win any P.R. battle they get into over this current lockout, by completely controlling whatever outlets they can. Don’t be shocked if this spreads to ESPN, as best as they can. They have a lot of ground to make up, as most fans have pinned this lockout squarely on the owners’ greed, and not even bothering to negotiate isn’t helping their cause. Too many fans have seen their teams use the luxury tax as a salary cap, or not even try at all, or hold players they want to see in the minors to gain more control, and whatever other nefarious means they can to hold salaries down. The fans quite simply have too much information these days to believe anything the owners are selling. You can’t villainize the players making millions when the one thing fans want, their team to try to win as best they can, has gone out the window. The players are barely part of that equation, really.
So Manfred is doing his best to control that information, and making sure whatever comes out on MLB Network is from the mouth of a parrot. I’m sure all talking points will be posted in every office and breakroom, just to be safe.
Manfred has proven to be a small, petty, ignorant, and slimy commissioner. He appears intent on cementing that reputation.