dan le batard-rob manfred

It’s not a great time to be a baseball fan in South Florida. The Miami Marlins’ new ownership group — fronted by Derek Jeter and backed by billionaire Bruce Sherman — announced its desire to slash pay and got right to work, trading Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna. For a fanbase that has endured numerous fire-sales over its 25-year existence, this teardown is understandably frustrating.

On Wednesday, ESPN Radio host Dan Le Batard brought MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on air to grill him on baseball in South Florida. It got very explosive, very quickly.

After Le Batard welcomed Manfred by saying baseball didn’t deserve a single fan in South Florida, Manfred pointed out the Marlins have won two World Series titles since being founded in 1993. Then Le Batard cut to the chase:

Le Batard: Rob, were you aware of Jeter’s plan to trade players and slash payroll?

Manfred: You know, it’s interesting. We—

Le Batard: Yes or no, please.

Manfred: You know, I’m happy to do yes or nos—

Le Batard: You can elaborate afterward, I just want to know if you were aware of the plan. Did you approve a plan that had “slash payroll” again for South Florida?

Manfred: We do not approve operating decisions by any ownership. New owner, current owners or not. And as a result the answer to your question is no.

Le Batard: Rob, Rob—

Manfred: I’m not gonna be deposed like this is some adversary thing. You want me to ask me questions, I’ll answer them the way I want to answer them. If that’s not good enough, we’ll move on.

Le Batard: No, that’s fine, but you’re coming on here and saying you weren’t aware of Jeter’s plan to trade players and slash payroll? We’re starting with a lie, Rob. That’s where we’re starting. You can’t tell me you’re not aware of that.

Manfred: I’m not going to sit here and have you call me a liar. I explained to you that we do not get involved in operating-level decisions in the ownership process, the ownership approval process. Clubs make those local decisions by themselves.

Le Batard: Were you aware of his plan though? Were you aware of it?

Manfred: No. No. We did not have player-specific plans from the Miami Marlins or any other team that were approved in the ownership process. Those are decisions individual owners make, and they do not have to be cleared by us or approved by us.

Le Batard and Manfred then bickered a little longer about the ownership approval process, with the host insisting the commissioner must have had an idea of what was coming and the commissioner insisting he didn’t.

Manfred’s claims that he had no clue Sherman and Jeter would cut costs don’t exactly pass the sniff test, and in fact, according to the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson, the commissioner’s denials were essentially false.

Two people directly involved in the sales process said that Jeter and Sherman were required to tell other owners their intentions with payroll during the approval process, and that they informed the other owners that payroll would be cut from $115 million to the $85 million to $90 million range, with $85 million used at times and $90 million other times in those discussions.

A source directly involved in the Marlins sales process, after hearing the Le Batard interview, said, via text: “Commissioner said was not aware of [Jeter] plan to slash payroll. Absolutely not true. They request and receive the operating plan from all bidders.

“Project Wolverine [the name for Jeter’s plan] called on his group to reduce payroll to $85 million. This was vetted and approved by MLB prior to approval by MLB. Every [Jeter] investor and non investor has the Wolverine financial plan of slashing payroll to $85 million. Widely circulated.”

If Jackson’s sources are to be believed, Le Batard’s skepticism about Manfred’s professed ignorance were entirely appropriate.

It’s not often you hear someone go after a commissioner like Le Batard did, especially with the guy on air and especially while working for a rights-holder. But if there’s anyone in sports media who was going to do it, Le Batard was definitely the guy.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.

  • YouAreWrongAndDumb

    Go Levitz!

  • Keith P.

    Is there anyone with any clue about how pro sports operates who was surprised the Marlins got rid of Stanton’s contract? It has been discussed openly for over a year.

    • 66pugs99

      In was not that they traded or were going to trade Stanton. It’s that they screwed their own leverage the way they did it, because they seemed to have not enough money to even run the franchise, and it came out everyone knew they had to deal right away. That’s one of the reason’s why the Yankees could come scoop up Stanton for almost nothing.

  • DrewShervin

    Wow!! That was impressive. It’s about time these commissioners are held accountable. There were other ownership groups vying for the Marlins. Still the deal with Florida baseball and the Marlins that even if they put a 90 win team on the field Marlins Park won’t draw flies. It’s in a bad location with no parking or convenient public transportation. What Dan fails to understand was the mistake in bringing MLB to South Florida in the first place. Deter’s contract being profit driven is real bad. The team is now going to lose 100-120 games a year for a long time. No reason to attend a game unless your going to see the other team. Manfred had to know they were going to cut payroll. The team allegedly lost $50 million last year. People have to understand this isn’t the Astros. The park will not be filled if they ever get good. Little Havana and the city that funded this stadium have a long memory. They stayed away and will continue to stay away.

    • 66pugs99

      Excellent objective analysis. Very rare in this discussion online. If people aren’t going to come out, there is no way this franchise is worth 1.2 billion. That was the whole BS scheme of this, to over inflate the price so it makes all franchises seem richer. It started with that BS report planted by Loria that someone has offered 1.6 billion, and went from there. The one thing to give Le Batard credit for, is regularly discussing the vile ultra-greed nature of owners scamming and defrauding cities in American sports.

  • teamlotus13

    Slashed to $85 million? Marlins fans are upset? Oakland A’s fan here, would love to have a number anywhere close to that one!!! We can match you straight up with 20 years of cheap ownership. South Florida got screwed on the new ballpark, but then stop by the Coliseum next time you’re in the Bay Area. On your way you can go past the A’s choice for a new ballpark site, the plan which went up in smoke in 3 whole months.

  • 66pugs99

    I have to say I used to dislike LeBatard, and thought he was just a generic contrarian. But since his show went national, he’s ditched the BS and been genuine and honest, while being satirical and silly about the business in sports t the same time – that has made him must listen to radio. Somehow he’s carved out a niche of being funny, subversive, counterculture but still sincere radio. That’s really hard to do at once, especially over a long period of time.

  • Jon

    I enjoyed Le Batard’s take down of Manfred. That being said, I think he should have led Manfred down the garden path for a while before jumping him, e.g., let Manfred get more comfortable before going for the jugular. Of course, there may have been good reasons for him to take the approach he did.

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