The Barker

Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred, Provided Unique Insight into America’s Pastime in a Wide-Ranging Interview with The Barker

Andrew Fiore, Staff Reporter

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On Monday, I interviewed Rob Manfred, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Manfred has been Commissioner since 2014, and has promoted issues such as the pace of the game and spreading interest in the game to the youth. He and I discussed those issues, and many others in this interview:

 

Barker: You have been the Commissioner for almost three years now. What has changed the most since you got here?

Commissioner Manfred: I think the single biggest change for us has been our focus on youth participation in a scenario where we had not invested enough in the years before I became Commissioner, it’s been a huge focus for us.

 

B: How did you go from being a lawyer to the Commissioner of baseball?

CM: Well look, I was very fortunate I had a mentor in Commissioner Selig who helped me expand my role constantly after I came to work in baseball. He got me involved in non legal areas and put me in a position where I could ultimately be elected Commissioner.

 

B: How did your Little League experiences affect the decision to start the Little League Classic? CM: Well Andrew, I had a very positive Little League experience but frankly the Little League Classic decision was more about the great relationship that we had developed with Little League as part of our effort to encourage youth participation. They’ve been a great partner and we felt that was a way to reward somebody who had done some great work alongside us in the youth space.

 

B: Union chief Tony Clark called the slower free agent market “a race to the bottom” and a “fundamental breach of the trust between a team and its fans and threatens the very integrity of our game.” Are you taking any measures prevent this from getting out of hand?

CM: Look, I think that I disagree with the comments that Tony made. I think all our teams want to win. Not everybody is equally likely to win in any given year, but all our teams want to win and I don’t feel that any change is necessary to ensure that fundamental motivation.

 

B: I agree with you and I think the market has been speeding up a little with Darvish especially.

CM: Yeah, it’s starting to move a little bit.

 

B: You want to increase interest in younger fans. What changes do you image will do so?

CM: Well, there are some things that are kind of outside the play of the game on the field. I think encouraging youth participation is really important. It’s also important to get young people exposed to our in-park experience. Our ballpark experience is really great, and it’s important to do that. In addition, I think we need to do things like encouraging pace of play and using technology to engage younger fans.

 

B: One idea that has come up is to have at least one World Series game start at an earlier time. What are your thoughts on that?

CM: We work with our broadcast partners in terms of scheduling all our postseason games with one issue in mind: we want the biggest possible audience. We always schedule to get the biggest possible audience and you know, it’s interesting, we play a lot of postseason day baseball right? In the early rounds? And all of the benefits that people claim we get from an early World Series start really don’t show in the demographics of those day game audiences.

 

B: Another speculation that has come up is that the Montreal Expos will return soon. Is this likely?

CM: Look, I’d love to see baseball expand, but I think our stadium situations in Tampa and Oakland need to get resolved before we bring them back

 

B: A big responsibility you have is choosing which cities host the All-Star Game. What goes into choosing the cities, and do you have ideas for upcoming midsummer classics?

CM: Let me say this, in awarding all star games obviously we want cities that we feel can best showcase the game. The All Star Game is really important to us from a marketing perspective, but we also like to recognize cities who have supported their teams, whether it be financially, infrastructure, whatever. Those are two of the important considerations. There’s a number of cities, major markets that haven’t had games in a really long time. Places like Los Angeles, Chicago; those are places that I think we’re going to look hard at hopefully in the near future.

 

B: A change that you made that I like was giving  World Series home field advantage to the team with the best record. What inspired that decision?

CM: We found over time that we thought home field advantage was becoming a little more important in the postseason and it really seemed like the fairest thing to do. I mean it’s really about fairness. If there’s a team with the best record it ought to get the advantage, right?

 

B: Right. I agree, and that’s why I liked the decision. For years I thought it should be that way and I am glad it finally happened.

CM: Well, I’m glad we got that one right, at least according to you and me, right?

 

B: Right. What is the best game you have ever attended?

CM: Oh boy, I’ve been to some great ones. I think Game 7 of the Chicago-Cleveland World Series is probably the best I’ve ever been in.

 

B: That was a classic! I was watching it and it was great.

CM: Yeah, it was a great game, and you know the outcome of the Cubs breaking the drought, and it was just a great, great game.

 

B: I agree. Earlier I mentioned the Montreal Expos returning. What about other cities for expansion, like Charlotte, Mexico City, or Portland?

CM: Look, I think all three of those cities are cities that we would have to look hard at, and there are some others in the event that we expand, but again, I see expansion as sort of sequenced behind the stadium issues that I talked about before.

 

B: What do you hope MLB will be like at the end of your term?

CM: I hope that the play of the game on the field will be the classic game that has always been a part of American culture, and I hope that we can attract a new generation of fans that are as passionate about the game as the people in my generation.

 

This interview was a great opportunity for me. Commissioner Manfred was easy to talk to and I got a view into the future of baseball concerning All Star sites and expansion. One of the more interesting parts was about Clark’s quote. Clark, chief of the players’ union, was quoted last week as saying that teams are not signing free agents so they can lose more and in turn, get better draft picks and build up a stronger team. Manfred clearly did not agree with the statement. Something that really surprised me was that Commissioner Manfred’s time in Little League was not a major reason for him to implement the Little League Classic. This is a new annual game where Major League teams play near the site of the Little League World Series, where the kids meet the stars and attend an MLB game. I learned a lot from our conversation and we’ll see if L.A. or Chicago hosts the All Star Game soon

 

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Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred, Provided Unique Insight into America’s Pastime in a Wide-Ranging Interview with The Barker