Rob Manfred: Fans acted like MLB rule changes were a ‘crime against humanity’
Rob Manfred is perhaps the most embattled commissioner in all of American professional sports, and his recent critical comments about fans are not likely to garner him more support among them.
The MLB commissioner recently took part in an interview with Evan Drellich of The Athletic during which he colorfully condemned fan reaction to rule changes instituted during his five-year tenure.
“The tiebreak rule. I’m not saying that we’re going to stay with it, I really am not. We went to it as part of the COVID protocols,” Manfred said. ” … But if you look at it when prior to the pandemic people talked about it: Oh my God, it was like a crime. It was like you were committing a crime against humanity. Now people have seen it in action and there’s lots of people saying, ‘You know what, this is actually OK.’
“The catcher-collision rule, that was going to be the end of humanity. Turns out it was a good thing. The change on the rule at second base, same thing. The four-pitch intentional walk, nobody even thinks about it anymore.”
Manfred went on to explain why he believes fans are often opposed to changes made to the game.
“I think it’s the discussion of change,” Manfred said. “Their logic, I believe, is: ‘He wants to change it, therefore he doesn’t love it.’ My logic is: ‘I love it, it needs to be consummate with today’s society in order for people to continue to love it, and therefore, I’m willing to take whatever criticism comes along in an effort to make sure the game is something Americans will continue to embrace.'”
The argument can be made that Manfred was making reasonable points in his comments. However, Manfred has been raked over the coals for years and condemned for his perceptively detached perspective of the game he oversees. This makes his comments arguably come off as somewhat tone-deaf and needlessly provocative.
Further, the low regard Manfred already was held in by MLB fans was negatively exacerbated by his actions and comments that seemingly complicated negotiations over the league’s resumption of play this summer amid the pandemic.
In the end, Manfred’s job — as is the case with commissioners in every professional sport — is to keep owners happy, not the fans. While it’s unclear what kind of review MLB owners would give Manfred at this point, bashing fans for passionately caring about the sport is unlikely to move the needle in a positive direction.