The Rundown: Rob Manfred Bad for Baseball, Báez Extension Talks Progressing, Mills Impressive, Sunday Baseball Notes

I’m starting to doubt if baseball and Rob Manfred can continue to coexist. Baseball is just not fun anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I am not giving up on the sport I love. It’s just that I’m starting to feel like my relationship with the game has become a little forced at times, and I’m sure other fans may feel the same way. Maybe it’s time for us to revolt.

“A rising tide lifts all the boats.” – John F. Kennedy

Yes, baseball still has its shining moments — just look at any jaw-dropping highlight reel of Javier Báez or Mike Trout. And as much as I hated the hypocrisy of Bud Selig, baseball emerged from the biggest scandal under his watch with nearly two decades of arguably the most exciting times in its history.

But Manfred has sucked the fun out of the game, and, as much as the owners seem to love him, they have to be tiring of the PR hits the game has taken since he replaced Selig. The integrity of baseball, once its foundation, is now a daily source of debate.  Protecting that integrity is the very reason baseball created the position of commissioner in 1920.

Chris Cwik of Yahoo Sports recently conducted an informal poll on what fans dislike about baseball, and the overwhelming leader among thousands of responses and retweets was Rob Manfred, who appears in almost every reply.


In the last six months alone, Manfred has had to defend against accusations that the league used a juiced baseball last season; botched the investigation into the Astros sign stealing scandal; allowed Houston owner Jim Crane’s denial of culpability to stand; issued no punishment to the players that were involved in the scandal; and then called the Commissioner’s Trophy, which has been awarded to baseball’s champion every year since 1967, “a piece of metal.”

And though Manfred, who has a history of botching investigations, apologized a day later, not many bought into his half-hearted attempt at atonement.

“I don’t think people are accepting it,” Kris Bryant said. “When you say something like that, I genuinely believe he really meant that it was just a piece of metal.”

“To me, that’s somebody who’s never played our game,” added Jon Lester. “We play for a reason. You play for that ‘piece of metal.’ I’m very proud of the three that I have. If that’s the way he feels, he needs to take his name off the trophy.”

The vitriol from active players for Manfred’s handling of the investigation has been almost league-wide. That seems a little odd, considering that Manfred had stated earlier this year that the the MLBPA is the main reason no players were indicted in the wake of Houston’s scandal. Further, his investigation into allegations that the Red Sox similarly cheated in 2018 is still under review with the start of the regular season just 18 days away.

Baseball has become a sport that is now played under the auspices that cheating is tolerable as long as blame can be deflected just enough to provide the appearance that any attempt to degrade the integrity of the game will not be allowed. That type of passive-aggressive leadership will ultimately be Manfred’s legacy, and should be grounds enough for a forced dismissal from the game.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Báez indicated that he and his agent have had continuing talks with the front office regarding a contract extension.
  • While the consensus opinion is the Cubs will do whatever it takes to extend his contract, there has been little to suggest they are close to extending Báez.
  • Alec Mills is garnering strong consideration to start the season as Chicago’s fifth starter. With a fastball that sits low 90’s and a curveball that averaged under 68 mph last season, the right-hander changes speeds as effectively as any pitcher in baseball.
  • Left-handed reliever Rex Brothers is having an outstanding spring and could head to Milwaukee with the team for the season opener against the Brewers, especially if Brad Wieck is not fully healed from his cardiac procedure.
  • Keep an eye on Nico Hoerner this spring. Given that he is the only true backup at shortstop he may have more of a chance of making the team than previously thought. Hoerner is having a fantastic camp.
  • Outfielder Ian Miller is having a remarkable spring and could be a consideration to make the team as its 26th man. Miller leads the team with seven stolen bases in Cactus League action.
  • The Cubs are counting on a bounceback season from closer Craig Kimbrel.
  • Thank you Ben Zobrist for ending 108 years of misery. You, sir, are a legend. Though not officially retired, the World Series hero is likely done with baseball, at least as a player.

Odds & Sods

Bill James sounds a bit disenfranchised with the current state of the game. Citing a decrease in TV ratings and attendance, and an increase in ticket prices and length of game, James said baseball is on an “unsustainable track” and heading towards crisis. “Some of you may not remember, but baseball used to be fun to watch,” he said yesterday as keynote of the 14th annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.

Updates On Nine 

  1. Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini has left the team to undergo a non-baseball medical procedure this week. The details are being kept private, but it’s worrisome to individuals throughout the Baltimore organization. Mancini hasn’t played since Monday, with the assumption made that flu-like symptoms were responsible for his absence. He’s been sick for much of camp, but the upcoming medical procedure has led to speculation that he’s dealing with a more serious health issue.
  2. Every spring, former White Sox, Yankees, and Padres closer Rich “Goose” Gossage makes sure baseball hasn’t forgotten about him, and this year is no exception. “These (stat-driven) workouts are all eyewash,” Gossage said in an interview the other day. “It’s a bunch of bullshit. It’s like the Democrats are running baseball.’’
  3. Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor could become baseball’s first $400 million man next winter. The Indians were shopping Lindor all offseason according to a number of baseball insiders, and he will likely be available at the trade deadline if Cleveland is not contending for a playoff spot.
  4. Third baseman Yoán Moncada became the latest member of the White Sox young core to come to terms on an extension. On Friday, Chicago announced a five-year, $70 million deal with Moncada, 24, who finished third in the AL last season with a .315 batting average.
  5. Retired White Sox starter José Contreras believes the ChiSox are primed to win the World Series this year. Contreras was a member of the starting rotation when Chicago swept the Astros in the 2005 series, starting and winning game one at U.S. Cellular Field.
  6. Dodgers lefty David Price started yesterday for the second time this spring and dominated the Rockies, striking out seven Colorado batters in three innings of work.
  7. It looks like the Rays will use righty Nick Anderson, who came over in one of the better, yet underrated trades at last year’s deadline, as their closer this season. The Rays went 34-18 after the trade, claimed the second wild card, and then Anderson’s profile was raised substantially in the one-game showdown with the A’s. He was used as the opener, faced five batters, struck out four, gave up one hit in leading the Rays to a 5-1 victory. When Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash was asked how and when Anderson will be deployed, he answered “when it matters.”
  8. Nationals outfielder Juan Soto had his contract renewed by the organization for roughly $629,000. He could be baseball’s biggest bargain.
  9. Due to concerns over the spreading COVID-19 virus, MLB, the CDC and the World Health Organization have urged Astros players to avoid shaking hands or exchanging items with fans until further notice. The players will pre-sign items and distribute them to fans before and during the game.

Apropos of Nothing

I just watched the indie film Blaze, the story of legendary country and blues singer Blaze Foley. A man who influenced greats like Townes Van Zandt, Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson, he never really made a name for himself due to his distaste for material possessions, hatred for the business side of music, and battles with drugs and alcohol. Though incredibly sad, it’s a great character study that plays like a documentary. Lucinda Williams wrote the song Drunken Angel as a tribute to Foley. “I don’t want to be a star.” Foley would say. “I want to be a legend.”

Extra Innings

They Said It

  • “We’ll see how everything goes on the business side, how many guys stay here. But it is what it is. You have to understand how far you’re going (to last together) in this sport.” – Javier Báez
  • “All I can do is let them make that decision, obviously. I’m just here to compete. And I think it’s been awesome.” – Alec Mills

Sunday Walk Up Song

She’s a Beauty by the Tubes

  • What went wrong? Fee Waybill as a carnival barker selling the notion of a female-dominating sexual encounter to a prepubescent boy? What the heck was going on in 1983? I thought the Reagan years promoted a more wholesome entertainment environment.
  • How does it play today? Do I really have to ask? Given the lyrical content there may not have been a lot of options for the director of this video, but he certainly could have come up with something that felt a little more John Hughes and a lot less Penthouse Forum.
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