Through a Glass Darkly with Rob Manfred

Rob Manfred
Commissioner of Baseball

In Game Two of the Baltimore @ Houston Series, Tuesday, April 3, 2018, Commissioner Rob Manfred was on hand to pass out the World Series Championship rings to all deserving members of the 2017 Houston Astros club and organization. It was a perfect time for the ROOTS TV broadcasting crew to get Manfred on camera for some spontaneous comment on the state of baseball. Scott Kalas and Geoff Blum spent the top of the 2nd inning doing exactly that.

Regrettably, I did not have a recording of the interview that I watched from the catbird seat of my Astros TV Zone study at home, but the tone and the message were sufficiently memorable to support what I needed for this column:

As the conversation quickly floated into baseball’s need for change, if any, from the way the game plays out at the ballpark and on TV, Manfred quickly adopted a cajoling attitude about the fact that we shall always have older players/people who will not want to change anything. I felt that Kalas pretty much followed Manfred into the same “hole in the ground”, but that “Blummer” did a good job of maintaining his distance from that stance. Kalas even made reference to some unnamed former player in our local midst who opposes any changes to the game.

The Commissioner balanced the “no change” oldies against the “change needed” younger fans OK, but then he sort of found the big hole in the ground – the one that leads to Baseball Wonderland – and ended up staring too long into the dark mirror he found there for his own conclusions.

As a result, Manfred appears to be looking at the problem oppositely from its true location:

1) Manfred thinks the game at the park and the surrounding experience for game attending fans is great. The games have never been better and the fans have never had more to do at the ballpark than they do now;

2) On the other hand, the Commissioner says he fears that younger fans at home may get bored and change the channel because they lack all those choices at home that are available at the ballpark.

3) Our 1st Question: If the Commissioner thinks he’s right, do we need a change like the free-runner at 2nd on extra inning tie games? i.e., “Stay tuned, folks! This game goes to the 10th tied 9-9! It’s time to see if that freebie runner that now hustles down to 2nd base can score the first unearned offensive winning run in baseball history!”

4) Our 2nd Question: Is the Commissioner’s Office now located on Mars? Here’s what we get with a trip downtown for a big game in most big league cities:

(a) a parking place that may cost as much or more than our game ticket;

(b) a game seat that jams you between two other (usually large and overlapping) people, with no space for aisle travel;

(c) a chance to rise and wiggle, every time an aisle traveler needs to pass;

(d) a view of the game that will be severely altered by the person sitting in front of you. I remember one game in Houston sitting behind this bald 6’7″ guy. I recall little of the game, but I have retained a pretty good picture of the cardiovascular system that was observable from the rear of that fan’s head;

(e) a chance to rise with each batted ball, or remain standing with each rally, or stay seated and wait for the crowd’s reaction to feed you the good or bad news on a general basis about what happened;

(f) a chance to catch a free tee-shirt that’s been cannon-fired into the stands, unless, of course, you’re sitting behind that 6’7″ guy I told you about – and you really lust for cannon-fired tee-shirts that prbably won’t fit anyway;

(g) the option to visit one of the food, drink, or souvenir shops – and spend more money than you planned – all the while remembering – that satisfying our need for immediate gratification is made possible by our immediately painless addiction to credit card purchasing;

(h) at the ballpark, you get to hear loud words spoken to you that you cannot understand – to loud music played that you don’t want to hear; and,

(i) when its over, then you get to find your car and drive home to the boondocks.

(5) As for the baseball-at-home TV experience, Commissioner Manfred needs to remember that we Americans have become the biggest multi-task culture in the world:

(a) At home, we can watch TV baseball, other shows, and evenuse the computer and phone side-by-side in our own self-established den or comfort zone – and never miss a lick at anything we are doing;

(b) It cost us nothing to park in our own garage – and all we have to do for food and drink is to hit our own kitchen or favorite home delivery phone number; (and there’s no cashier in the kitchen!);

(c) No one’s going to block our view of the game at home on the big screen HD TV – and no one’s going to suddenly stand in front of us prior to a big play. I would have loved being at the park for Game 5 of the 2017 World Series, but I have no big regrets. I actually got to see the game – as it can only be seen on HD TV in a state of blended mindfulness, from proven camera placement angles, and then transmitted to us in the best close-up picture quality available – and without anyone even once blocking the view and intense state of total immersion in what may well stand up over time as one of the greatest baseball games ever played!

(d) If Millennials hit the change channel on baseball, it won’t be because a 9-9 game is now going into extra innings. It will be because every time they hit the button to reach the game, the broadcast is on another commercial break.

Summary Message to Commissioner Manfred

1) Don’t make changes in the rules that support the basic integrity of the game. i.e., no free runner at 2nd base to start extra inning games with a shot at a one-pitch walk-off single in any bottom half.

2) Change the ballparks to maximize a fan’s chances for actually seeing a game in person. i.e., give us smaller parks, more comfortable seat spacing, true unobstructed sight-lines to the field; true aisle space for fans passing in and out; and diverse multiple big screens that show us the close-ups that made Game 5 on TV the classic it now is in our real-time memories.

3) If you think the ballpark game is great and the TV game needs to be fixed for boredom, you are dealing with a reversal of the truth. It’s the other way around. The home TV game fits beautifully into our multi-tasking life styles. Just shorten the commercials. Do something about the ballpark infrastructure interference with comfort and our ability to even see the games we attend in person.

4) Charge more for fewer TV game commercials breaks.

5) Find the sky on how high salaries may go and work to get management and labor to come to some kind of agreement that works for most, always keeping in mind that we shall always have egos that will fly higher than the economics of the baseball market can afford. At least, get people working toward rational long-term solutions to the game’s expense before it settles everything else by becoming too rich for the average fan consumer.

Thanks for listening. Thanks for trying. We appreciate any real help you care to bring to the game.

Bill McCurdy, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle





5 Responses to “Through a Glass Darkly with Rob Manfred”

  1. Patrick Callahan '56 Says:

    AND….AT HOME….on your computer, Lap Top, Notebook whatever you can always pull up things like “MLB Greatest Throws” or “Fastest Recorded (Unofficial) Pitch”, “MLB Greatest Trick Plays” when things get slow?

  2. Larry Dierker Says:

    Agree with much of what you said, Bill. On WS Ring night, the noise nearly blew me out of my seat. And that was before the game even started. There is no scoreboard between innings. As far as rule changes, Why not? I you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. But who will decide which changes? That’s what scares me.

  3. gregclucas Says:

    The complaints about actually going to games is the same for all sports and always have been true (to some extent) when teams are good and crowds are large…However, bigger aisles mean fewer seats…can’t have that.

    As far as the game is concerned just don’t put any “artificial” means to shorten extra innings. If a limit of innings is introduced to save pitchers then just end it then. Call it a tie. No “fake” runners or HR derbies, letting top hitters come up in all extra innings,..etc to end long games.

    Best not to change anything at all of course, but we have “wimpified” aggressive play already, cut down on mound visits and VASTLY sped up the game with automatic intentional walks! What more is needed? More “invented” stats? Of course. Bring on the WARS and WIN shares and anything else to further confuse the game more on TV. That’ll solve things.

  4. don matlosz Says:

    MLB is not only boring for young people. I am 70 and was a baseball fan since I was 8 years old. I will give you 3 reasons why I no longer interested in attending a MLB game or watching it on TV.
    1. Group think dominates the game. Driven by analysis. Limited creativity
    2. Endless amount of futility generated by excessive strikeouts
    3. Pitchers dominate the game and management has failed to adapt.
    No bunting for base hits-decline in stolen bases-limited hit and run
    4. Small ball is dead. There are no Lou Brock’s or Ricky Hendersons
    nor is there a Billy Martin

  5. DAVIS O. BARKER Says:

    for whatever it is worth … but it is interesting

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