Baseball is a pastime that’s almost entirely about tradition. That’s why there are still people complaining about lights for nighttime games at Wrigley, much less the Jumbotrons they’ve got in right field. It’s why we’re still debating the purity of the Designated Hitter. No other sport values verisimilitude the way that baseball does. Not just values it, or appreciates it — baseball actively REQUIRES it. Every single fan and pundit-related argument about the sport for the past 30 years has been in the service of keeping the venerated old wheat and separating it from the new-fangled chaff. And yet it’s not annoying, and doesn’t seem like it’s pandering to an aging audience. Every single fan of the sport that enters each stadium knows what they’re going to get when they arrive.
That’s also how you know that Rob Manfred doesn’t GET baseball. It’s supposed to be more than just salvaging a season, or seeing if you can save 30 ownerships a few shekels as we watch 2020 go down the drain. We all suspected he didn’t get it when he referred to taking back the 2017 trophy from the Astros a futile gesture because “you’d just be taking back a piece of metal.” But railroading a 60-game season down the throats of the MLBPA without player buy-in just proves it. Rob Manfred’s not a baseball man that happens to deal in numbers, like Bud Selig or Fay Vincent were. Rob Manfred is a NUMBERS man, that happens to deal in baseball.
Baseball Men can keep their jobs if they’re qualified, because they’re hard to come by. But Numbers Men? Numbers Men are all around us. And you know what happens when a Numbers Man can’t produce numbers? He gets shown the door. And that’s as true in any business as it is in Major League Baseball. Manfred’s got no pedigree to keep his job aside from his promise that he’ll Bring Up Those Numbers. And that’s why he’s pushing for a season, regardless of risk, or value, or any other factor.
I hope this season doesn’t happen, but I suspect it will. And of course I’ll watch.
I’m a Baseball Man.