Some people just can’t stand the heat and instead turn to throwing them out of the kitchen. They are not able to roll with the punches, even when the criticisms that come to them are justified and documented.
In the case of Rob Manfred v Ken Rosenthal, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball acted recklessly in the face of a not-so-vicious attack. Instead of just turning the other cheek or looking in the mirror, Manfred decided that the league-owned MLB network needed to fire a longtime, credible and respected journalist. Rosenthal confirmed the news via his Twitter account. He also indicated that he is still employed by Fox Sports and that he will continue to report on the sport for this network.
The Stewards of the Big 4 Sports Leagues are supposed to have thick skin. Criticism, skepticism, and whatever other ism you can think of come with work. Generally speaking, these commissioners make a lot of money and in the eyes of the fans, never have the collective back.
No one said these jobs were supposed to be easy. You aren’t going to be popular with everyone, but why make it worse?
Rosenthal was relieved of his duties as an “insider” at the MLB Network on Monday. It was revealed by the New York Post that Rosenthal’s article published on athleticism leads to a secret double probation of a few months and ultimately to his dismissal. The article, published on June 16, 2020, criticized Manfred and his handling of the start of the pandemic-plagued 2020 baseball season. On the surface, the so-called attack was mild in nature and filled with truths. Manfred went back and forth over the course of a season, then didn’t have a season. This led Rosenthal to lines like these from his published column.
- “As if the perception that Manfred is indebted to owners and disconnected from players wasn’t bad enough, he was trending on Twitter Monday after performing a huge about-face.”
- “Certainly, the commissioner is forever in a delicate situation, empowered to act in the best interests of the game, but employed by the owners. Still, how does Manfred in the span of five days go from telling ESPN the season would go “unequivocally” to saying on the same network that he was “not confident” that it would happen? “
- “Still, for a guy who is suddenly looking for peace, Manfred certainly has a funny way of showing it. “
- “He and the owners, supposed custodians of the game, are turning the national pastime into a national hitting line, effectively threatening to take their ball and return home as the country grapples with medical, economic and societal challenges. . “
- “If he blows that out, that will define him.” That should be enough of an incentive to get him to make a deal, period. “
I guess the truth hurts. Especially the last line. Was the comment inappropriate? No. Was the comment a personal attack on the man? No.
MLB Network was not designed to be a “state-run” television. Yes, you have to be careful not to cross this invisible line in the sand. For me, the comments written by Rosenthal don’t really cross the line. I don’t have a deep understanding of how the other league-operated networks do their business, but they’ve never made the headlines for something like this.
I’ve written before about the precarious situation some play-by-play and colors analysts find themselves in when working for the team they call matches for. It’s a totally different situation from this. Broadcasters who are on the air every day understand that being too critical can have repercussions. At the same time, there is a problem of credibility. If a team is bad and advertisers are talking about the quality of things, well, that’s a recipe for disaster. Fans will call you shill and really question a lot of things you say. We broadcasters need the support of the stations and teams we work for, to be able to challenge things that need to be challenged.
In this case, Rosenthal, who is about as respected a journalist as he is in the sport of baseball, was suspended and fired for telling the truth. The commissioner, who represents the owners and ultimately the ownership of the network, could not manage it and flew instead.
It’s really sad, because Manfred is doing the network viewers a disservice. Rosenthal is one of the kings of the news in my mind. I often look forward to hearing his reports because they are filled with valuable information. This information is not an opinion, it is based on facts because it is gathered from credible sources and delivered by an equally credible source.
Baseball has enough problems already. He has an image problem. Manfred has an image problem. Seemingly insignificant things like this wrongful dismissal play directly into this narrative. Why would you want to try to make it worse with something like this? It’s not as if Rosenthal is one of those people who continually arouses controversy. He’s on top of that. His report is not sensational.
Manfred’s job is not easy, I’ll give it to him. He has to deal with the egos of some owners who do not want to give in an inch. As the lockout continues, with no end in sight, the chasm between fans and baseball continues to widen. I will never tell the man how to do his job, but I will say if you get away from the fans enough your sport is over.