Is MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred the Worst Commissioner in Sports?

Many MLB fans thought Bud Selig was a bad commissioner. He was in charge when the 1994 strike wiped out the second half of the season, including the World Series, and largely turned a blind eye to steroid use for years. So people were happy when Selig stepped down in 2015.

But now his successor is also getting a reputation as a bad commissioner. Sports fans aren’t thrilled with some of the changes Rob Manfred has made to try to improve the pace of play. Things reached a boiling point in recent months due to Manfred’s response to the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.

Rob Manfred’s handling of the Astros’ punishment

After MLB concluded its investigation into the Astros’ sign-stealing, Manfred issued a nine-page report detailing the findings and punishment he handed down, including one-year suspensions for general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch and a loss of draft picks for the next two years.

What wasn’t included: suspensions for any current Astros players. This upset everyone from MLB fans to other players, who felt the Astros who knowingly participated should be punished for their roles by being suspended or at least fined.

Manfred didn’t do enough to stop the cheating

In the weeks after the MLB investigation, news stories began to trickle out alleging that Manfred and others in the league knew teams were cheating but didn’t do enough to end it.

The Washington Post reported that “the idea that the Astros employed nefarious methods was an open secret.” The newspaper quoted an unnamed executive from a team that faced the Astros in the playoffs during that time as saying, “The whole industry knows they’ve been cheating … for three or four years. Everybody knew it.”

According to the Washington Post, “10 to 12 teams complained to MLB about the Astros over the years.” An executive from another team also thought that number was accurate. Despite this, Manfred didn’t do much to stop the cheating until former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers spoke to The Athletic about what the team did.

Public outcry against Manfred

Rob Manfred Commissioner of Major League Baseball
Commissioner of Major League Baseball Rob Manfred | Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Public criticism of Manfred didn’t stop after the punishment announcement. People have also taken issue with how he handled the situation since then; they don’t feel Manfred is doing enough to ensure similar cheating doesn’t happen in the future. Instead, the commissioner seems more concerned with ending bad publicity in the wake of the scandal.

Even NBA great LeBron James called out the baseball commissioner. The three-time champion tweeted about the Astros scandal. He acknowledged he doesn’t play baseball but “I know if someone cheated me out of winning the title and I found out about it I would be F*^king irate! I mean like uncontrollable about what I would/could do!”

In a follow-up tweet, James called out Manfred, though not by name. He told him, “Literally the ball is in your court(or should I say field) and you need to fix this for the sake of Sports!”

Perhaps more concerning for Manfred: The MLB’s own stars who criticized him. The list includes three-time AL MVP Mike Trout, reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger — whose Dodgers lost the 2017 World Series to the Astros — and Aaron Judge, who finished second to Jose Altuve in voting for the 2017 AL MVP award.

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