A New Commish
November 13, 2014
by William Szczepanek
Baseball will be getting a new commissioner, Rob Manfred. It really needs one. Not that Bus Selig has done a bad job; some would say he is the best baseball commissioner ever, but he really hasn’t addressed the issues that threaten baseball head on, and pertain to the fans. Baseball is a sport, and more so, baseball is a business. As a supporter of baseball owners he is very good.
While Selig has expanded baseball with wild card teams and interdivisional play and a playoff scheme that gives a chance to more teams, he has failed to address adequately the drug issues that threaten our kids and games that seem to drag on and on, flat attendance, and an aging fan demographic.
Baseball is different today and I can’t say that I’d like to go back to the way it was because that wouldn’t fit the size of the leagues and the culture of today. Being somewhat of an ancient baseball purist I see teams that can win a championship, based on a mediocre season record. Luck affects the outcomes of baseball games more so than any other sport. The playoffs are exciting, but in some ways they make the World Series seem anticlimactic. It’s all about money and markets, but I will have to say that the latest World Series and Playoffs were very exciting to watch and at no time did they seem to drag on.
I think video replay has been a huge success, even though it has lengthened the games, because it has taken a small part of the game that is critical and added suspense to it, while reducing the element of human error.
The first commissioner, Kennesaw Mountain Landis, was appointed to save the game from pervasive gambling. He did so with an iron fist and was thought to bring integrity to the game. Landis’s power prevented blacks from entering the game for decades longer than what was appropriate. I guess even back then, doing what was right wasn’t entirely understood at the time. We can accept the fact that both Landis and Selig are human.
During the Golden Age of Baseball Cards not much was heard from the commissioner, Ford Frick, until the quest by Mantle and Maris to break Ruth’s cherished home run record. When Maris hit the mark in 162 games, Frick indicated that the records would be separate and that as asterisk would indicate the difference in games. The asterisk never occurred, but Maris would be continually hounded during his pursuit of the record. It is hard to say whether the same things would have transpired if Mantle was the one to break the record.
Given the problems that the commissioners of the NFL and NBA have had to face lately, it appears that baseball is not alone in its endeavor to balance fairness with profit. And, it will likely get worse before it gets better since our culture seems to be changing faster than baseball. Racial issues, criminal issues and dishonesty were and are still part of the game. It just seems that now more than ever before we need more than a businessman, or lawyer as a commissioner, we need another “judge”.