Rob Manfred Feb 17, 2019; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; MLB commissioner Rob Manfred addresses representatives from the grapefruit league during the annual spring training media day at Hilton in West Palm Beach. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Rob Manfred still has five more seasons to build his legacy as MLB’s 10th commissioner. He could certainly help himself — and the sport — if he looked back and learned from some of his past mistakes, especially when it comes to media and public relations.

Manfred, 65, announced Thursday he will step down as commissioner when his current term ends in January 2029. That news has prompted many fans and media outlets to offer a quick retrospective on his career.

Without question, Manfred deserves credit for many things that have gone right in the sport since he took office in 2015. Average MLB team values have almost doubled, going from $1.2 billion in 2015 to $2.3 million in 2023, according to Forbes.

MLB introduced a new rules package in 2023 that shaved 20-plus minutes off the average game time from recent years and introduced more action (more stolen bases, fewer pickoff attempts, etc.)

Other developments were not positive. Manfred imposed a lockout after the 2021 season, sparking a battle with the MLBPA that lasted almost four months. TV ratings and attendance are down from 2015 levels, but let’s face it — baseball is a 19th century sport that has somehow remained surprisingly relevant in a digital age where attention spans are now measured in seconds. Considering that, the sport is healthy.

So Manfred deserves some credit. As for the things he’s done wrong, the frustrating thing is, most of his biggest controversies have been unforced errors, completely avoidable. Case in point: At the height of the Houston Astros cheating scandal in 2020, when asked if MLB should take away the team’s 2017 WS trophy, or mark the title with an asterisk, Manfred carelessly said, “Asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act.”

That’s a ridiculously flippant statement, disrespectful to players, fans, and everyone else in the sport. Manfred later apologized, but the damage was done. Award-winning sportswriter Joe Posnanski noted on his Substack, “Rob Manfred decided to give a press conference…which means he said a whole bunch of dumb, obviously false and kind of cruel things. This seems to happen whenever Manfred decides to give a press conference…Does he not prepare? Does he not know that he’s terrible on the fly? Does he not trust anyone to advise him?”

But Manfred has a penchant for saying the wrong thing to the media and ending up in hot water. In 2023, when the Oakland Athletics drew a huge crowd during a “reverse boycott” protest, Manfred snarkily commented, “I mean, it was great. It is great to see what is this year almost an average Major League Baseball crowd in the facility for one night. That’s a great thing.”

Fans and media roasted Manfred for those remarks.

Baseball insider Ken Rosenthal told Foul Territory TV that the statement was “unbecoming of a commissioner in any sport. It’s not something that reflects well on him or the sport.”

When the media has pointed out Manfred’s flaws, he’s reportedly shown a vindictive side. Rosenthal, for example, had his contract not renewed with the MLB Network in 2022, reportedly the result of comments he’d made about Manfred two years earlier.

Incidents such as these will quickly come to mind when media and fans one day consider Manfred’s legacy as commissioner.

There are five more seasons in Manfred’s tenure, but some critics are eagerly waiting to close the book on his reign. San Francisco Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow told Bay Area radio station KNBR in 2022 that he agreed with the sentiment that Manfred should be replaced.

“I say replace him,” Krukow said. “He’s got to go. … I’m on board with that. If that happens, he’s going to fall out of this job and land on his feet. He will be the next villain in the Batman movie. And he’d be a good one.”

While some clearly think Manfred’s legacy is set, he still has some time to polish it.

About Arthur Weinstein

Arthur spends his free time traveling around the U.S. to sporting events, state and national parks, and in search of great restaurants off the beaten path.