With the first week of the MLB regular season canceled – for the moment – most of the national baseball press seems to have taken sides in the contretemps. Here are a few headlines from the last 48 hours or so:
“How Rob Manfred’s ineffective reign as MLB Commissioner led to baseball’s ‘disastrous outcome’”
“MLB Commissioner Manfred blasted after announcing cancelation of games”
“With MLB games canceled and fan apathy blooming blame rests solely on owners”
You get the idea – – and I think that narrative is wrong. By that I do not mean that the owners – and Rob Manfred far more specifically – are the aggrieved party in this mess. What I mean is that for every bungling mishandling of dicey situations faced by Commissioner Manfred, there has been a similar lack of ability to compromise on the other side of the table. Please, do not try to make Tony Clark out to be a reincarnated Samuel Gompers; he is not; he and the negotiating team that he leads cannot be held blameless when it takes “two signatures” and a ratification vote on both sides to put a new CBA into effect.
It is not difficult to point to a half-dozen actions taken by – or dodged by – Rob Manfred that were not in the “best interests of baseball”. If you were to go and rank the ten MLB Commissioners going all the way back to Judge Landis more than a hundred years ago, I would be surprised if you put Manfred in the top five. Rob Manfred makes Bud Selig look like a certified genius.
But please do not forget to examine critically Tony Clark’s role in all of this. Clark has been the Executive Director of the MLBPA for just over 8 years. If you want to point to a problem with the game that has arisen or has captured national attention in that time, please stop and tell me how Tony Clark acted to make everything better. Which side of the table opposed pitch clocks? Which side of the table refused to have a Federal mediator try to bring the two sides together to get a deal done here?
In the opening paragraph here, I said that the games in the first week of the regular season have been canceled “for now”. The question as to whether those games should be made up and/or how players will be compensated for games lost simply puts another barrier in the path to get a deal done. Given the history of the lack of leadership skills shown by Rob Manfred AND by Tony Clark, another bone of contention is not a good thing.
And in the midst of all that sturm und drang, Derek Jeter made headlines this week announcing that he has stepped down as the CEO of the Miami Marlins AND that he is going to divest himself of his 4% ownership stake in the franchise. Say what?
If you put any faith in the Forbes valuations of sports franchises, you can find that the last valuation from 2021 puts the Miami Marlins value at $990M. That is the lowest valuation in MLB and the only team valued below $1B. [Aside: the Marlins sold for $1.2B just 4 years ago meaning that if Forbes is correct, the Miami franchise has declined in value over the last 4 years and that is a rarity in US sports businesses.] Nonetheless, Jeter’s 4% stake is worth a tidy $39.6M and his abrupt and surprising departure from the organization is surely not going to enhance the value of that stake when it comes to an outsider bidding for it. Obviously, the $64,000 question is:
Here is the salient part of Jeter’s prepared statement when he made his decision known:
“Today I am announcing that the Miami Marlins and I are officially ending our relationship and I will no longer serve as CEO nor as a shareholder in the Club. We had a vision five years ago to turn the Marlins franchise around, and as CEO, I have been proud to put my name and reputation on the line to make our plan a reality. Through hard work, trust and accountability, we transformed every aspect of the franchise, reshaping the workforce, and developing a long-term strategic plan for success.
“That said, the vision for the future of the franchise is different than the one I signed up to lead. Now is the right time for me to step aside as a new season begins.”
A difference of opinion that cannot be resolved regarding “the vision of the future” can mean almost anything; I was ready to ignore this whole situation until I read a column by Joel Sherman in the NY Post. I recommend that you take a moment to follow this link and read that column in its entirety.
Joel Sherman is a baseball insider; he has information sources inside the game that are usually reliable. If he is correct that this impasse over the future vision for the team boils down to a “$15M misunderstanding”, that might be almost as myopic a situation as the one demonstrated by the league and the players union at the negotiating table.
Finally, since I spent time exposing my feelings today about Rob Manfred and Tony Clark, let me close with an observation by scholar John Ciardi:
“The Constitution gives every American the unalienable right to make a damn fool of himself.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………