Major League Baseball has a new commissioner, their first since 1992, and his name is Rob Manfred. No seriously, that’s his name. Even though it sounds like it was dropped from the “Big McLarge-Huge” riff from Mystery Science Theater 3000, it really does belong to the new commish.
Manfred was handpicked by outgoing commissioner Bud Selig to be his replacement and although there was a long day of voting in Baltimore to determine who would take over, Manfred was announced the winner shortly after dinnertime. In the first contested vote for commissioner in 46 years, Manfred’s main rival in the position was Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, but at least two of Werner’s initial supports switched to Manfred by the end of the night, giving him the majority vote.
So what do we know about Manfred? He joined the MLB as a labor counsel in the late 1980s, moved up in labor relations to become their vice president in 1998 and then moved to executive vice president of economics and league affairs in 2012.
Last year, as Selig had again publicly flirted with retirement much to the hope of baseball fans everywhere, Manfred was promoted again to Chief Operating Officer. His experience leading negotiations for the last three labor contracts and help implementing the drug agreement that was started after the steroid scandal of the late ’90s/early 2000s were cited as key factors.
Manfred is taking over a sport declining in popularity. The steroid era did a number on fans’ waning interest as Selig’s bumbling routine resembled more of an extra in Genesis’s “Land Of Confusion” video than the head of a billion-dollar industry. Television revenues have dropped in half, most of the national news baseball receives is when another blip on the Biogenesis scandal occurs and it’s losing out on younger fans to other sports.
Manfred is 55, which is no spring chicken, but compared to the 80-year-old Selig, he probably has the ability to implement things at a quicker pace than old Bud. When Adam Silver took over as commissioner of the NBA in February, he was 51 and replaced the outgoing 71-year-old David Stern. Although Silver didn’t really ask for the Donald Sterling controversy to come crashing on his plate right when he was stretching his legs in his new office, he was aided by his youth and did connect better to the rage of the basketball audience over years of Sterling’s mess. Silver also had the benefit of being on the opposing side of an awful person in a sport that has increased popularity.
So what is the fate of Commissioner Big McLarge-Huge? Probably similar to Adam Silver; the public will know what he’s serving when something he didn’t order winds up on his plate.