I am Beginning to Not Like Robert Manfred Jr.
When Bud Selig's damage to baseball was over in 2015, Robert Manfred was swiftly elected commissioner of the sport. He did some things I didn't like, but I've been mostly neutral toward Manfred until the beginning of the pandemic.
When every other sport in America, Football, Basketball, Hockey, and Soccer were all trying to play all of their games, Manfred was trying to figure out how to play less games. But I still gave Manfred the benefit of the doubt due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.
At the end of 2021, the owners locked out the players. I was briefly annoyed, but then I realized that Christmas is the perfect time for a lockout. NO games are being lost, the lockout is basically a negotiating tool. I am currently giving Manfred the benefit of the doubt, hoping baseball won't lose any real games in the spring..
Then, yesterday, when I was nearly out of charity for Robert Manfred, I read that he and the owners nixed the Tampa Bay Rays plan to have a "sister city" in Montreal that would host half their home games. Again, we at Beacon of Speech are against franchises moving 95% of the time. If Manfred put his foot down and said to Stuart Sternberg, you need to sell, I would respect that. But Manfred kind of hemmed and hawed and left the door open for future Sternberg shenanigans.
Behind closed doors, Manfred should have said, "if you can't make it work in Tampa, and you can't make it work in St. Petersburg, I give you permission to explore Orlando.
Since Robert Manfred took office in 2015, I have been to more baseball games, live and in person, than any other sport. But here's the catch, not Cleveland (Guardians) games, but Lake Erie Crushers games. I live almost an hour outside Cleveland and I'm not really engaged with the (Guardians). They are rarely on free TV, they make their money on their lucrative cable channel (that I don't have), and they constantly cry poor. I am also one of the fans that's pissed that Cleveland dropped their mascot from Chief Wahoo and changed their nickname from the Indians to the Guardians. So for my pro baseball fix, I spend my money on the minor league team.
I am the definition of a casual fan.
Winning me back is going to be very difficult. In the Draft Section of Beacon of Speech is an article that I keep picking up and putting back down called Paul Dolan's Scam. I hope to have it done in February. Forget about me for a second, how do you win over the casual fan in Central Florida?
Even though the Orlando Metroplex is an hour and a half away, and is slightly smaller than the Tampa-St. Pete Metroplex, it has something that Tampa cannot compete with, and that's over 20 million visitors a year.
If Stuart Sternberg can't make baseball work in Orlando, not only should he sell the team, he should get out of business all together. You re-brand your product something cool, like the Orlando Fire Frogs, you keep the Tampa TV contract, at a lowered rate, add an Orlando TV contract, and become a summertime tourist destination. You give it 2 or 3 years, if it still doesn't work, you sell the team to Disney for a BILLION DOLLARS. Can you imagine the Orlando Fire Frogs games streaming on Disney+ in 5 years? They'd be the most popular baseball team in America in a decade.
As the new Fire Frogs become a tourist destination like the Las Vegas Knights in the NHL, they aren't just the team of Central Florida, they have a Braves on TBS Model. I do not consider an hour and a half jaunt really moving the team.
Now you're wondering what this has to do with Robert Manfred? Manfred should be proactive, but sadly, he apparently is not. This is how Manfred will handle the situation, he will wring his hands and threaten Tampa later this year. If they don't build Sternberg a stadium, he will be allowed to move the team. Tampa will balk and Manfred will steer Sternberg toward Portland or Vegas.
Despite the fact that Montreal and Portland are the two cities that the fans prefer for expansion, Manfred seems like his predecessor in regards to following the dollar....the American Dollar. If a MLB team returned to Montreal, the second largest TV market in Canada, it would make too much sense. Montreal should have been nurtured, and not screwed, by baseball. they deserve a team.
But the Rays?
I'm going to call my shot.
If it's June and the players are still locked out....
And Manfred is threatening the city of Tampa Bay....
And the Oakland Athletics are on their way to Portland..... Robert Manfred is simply Bud Selig 2.0.
A dopey puppet of the owners.
When doing research for this article, I had to google my own BOS article that articulated my disdain for Bud Selig. I had always thought that I was in the minority in Selig's poor appraisal.
I was surprised when a litany of others thought the way that I did came up in the google engine search. I think Selig's legacy is split. Those HARSHER on Selig than me: