After a whirlwind of negotiations leading up to this 2020 COVID Season, one thing was clear – The MLB has been its own worst enemy in the effort to grow it’s brand and fan base. At the forefront of this mess is Rob Manfred, the MLB Commissioner, and he certainly hasn’t gained any fans of his own of late.
Prior to Manfred, the MLB has had nine Commissioners, five of which served for six seasons or less. The 2020 COVID season will be Manfred’s sixth and there is a case to be made that he should not have the privilege of joining the short list of 7+ Season Commissioners.
But if we are going to have a hypothetical discussion about who the 2021 MLB Commissioner should be, we need to be clear on our selection criteria. The new Commissioner should be chosen with a couple priority objectives in mind…
- GROW THE GAME – For real this time. Let’s force the media to talk about which prospect is going to be the next Hall-of-Famer instead of how much money the Owners are making.
- STAND AS JUDGE – The Commissioner may be elected by the Owners, but he shouldn’t be their advisory against the Player’s Association. The Commissioner’s responsibilities of overseeing Umpires, Marketing, Labor and Television Contracts are best served by someone who has both the Players and Owners best interests in mind, a neutral source fighting for the baseball brand.
- MAKE THE FAN BASE PROUD – Too often Commissioners are made fun of and taunted by the fan base, no matter the sport. What if we had someone to cheer at the Rookie Draft every year? I know, I know… we’d still boo them, simply out of tradition, but you get the point.
These five candidates make a case to stand for those objectives, while standing heavily on the “hypothetical” part of this conversation…
5. George W. Bush
The 46th Governor of Texas and 43rd President of the United States of America co-owned a Major League Baseball Team prior to his service as a politician. After turning $800,000 into $15,000,000 through an Oil Exploration business investment, George W Bush purchased a controlling interest in the Texas Rangers and served in managerial operations for five years.
- BRINGS ATTENTION – no matter what your opinion of the man is, you’d take interest in him being chosen as the MLB Commissioner, and you’d most likely follow along to see how he does in the role. More attention paid to baseball is a good thing, as long as it’s not the attention Rob Manfred’s been bringing.
- LEADERSHIP – again, no matter what your political opinion is, this man led the United States of America through a terror attack and into war. Leadership cannot be undervalued.
- 9/11 FIRST PITCH – I mean you don’t need anymore than this. The man walks to the middle of Yankee Stadium, immediately following the deadliest terrorist attack in our nation’s history, gives us a thumbs-up and throws it right. down. the. middle. ‘Merica.
- NO POLITICS ALLOWED IN BASEBALL – Baseball should be an escape from politics not another reason to debate them.
4. JOE TORRE
Joe Torre has long been rumored as someone who could make sense assuming the role. He’s the only person to have 2,000+ hits as a player and 2,000+ wins as a manager, and since being the Yankee Manager he’s served as MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer and is currently a Special Assistant to the Commissioner.
- HE’S WORN EVERY HAT – Torre has played in the MLB, managed in the MLB, and now has been closely involved with Commissioner duties for nearly 10 years… he’s seen every side of the equation.
- HOW HE WORE HIS HAT – I’ll let the picture explain what I’m talking about… top notch stuff.
- IS HE REALLY AN IMPROVEMENT? – He’s been a special assistant to the Commissioner through the whirlwind of recent problems… is he enough of a new philosophy if he takes over?
3. DARRYL STRAWBERRY
Bit of a wild card in this conversation, Darryl Strawberry is typically referred to as one of those “what could have been” players despite seventeen seasons, four World Series rings, and nine All-Star Game appearances. Drafted 1st Overall in 1980 by the New York Mets, Strawberry had every ounce of talent needed to be one of the best players of all-time. But as he currently testifies, Major League Baseball was not the pinnacle of life, it was a lonely place. After three substance abuse suspensions, two divorces and a rollercoaster ride to rock-bottom, Darryl Strawberry found Jesus and is currently leading and preaching at Strawberry Ministries. He’s also published multiple books including “Don’t Give Up on Me” about addiction and recovery, and “The Imperfect Marriage – Help for those Who Think It’s Over.”
- HIS PERSPECTIVE IS BIGGER THAN BASEBALL – it’s not about wins and losses, it’s not about the negotiations, nor the profit – it’s about reaching more people and creating an environment that breeds fulfillment and success in life, not just on the back of a baseball card.
- BRING IN A NEW ERA – all of the previous MLB Commissioners have been white… I’ll let you finish that thought. But additionally, Strawberry would certainly be a refreshingly new look to the role of MLB Commissioner.
- BEFORE JESUS RESUME – He was suspended three different times for substance abuse, is that a blemish on the record that the MLB can overlook for their Commissioner?
- ENOUGH PROWESS? – I don’t know what skill set is required for the day-to-day responsibilities of a Commissioner, does Strawberry have them?
2. DEREK JETER
RE2PECT. He had to be number 2 on this list, right? In his twenty seasons of wearing pinstripes at shortstop, The Captain won five World Series, five Gold Gloves, was elected an All-Star fourteen times, and currently holds the second highest voting percentage all-time for Hall-of-Fame inductees (99.75%). Jeter has since ventured into the business world, most recently investing in the Miami Marlins and being named the CEO, overseeing day-to-day operations.
- HE’S THE CAPTAIN – from Captain on the field to Captain in the League Office, Jeter certainly possesses the leadership qualities to reign both the Owners and Players Association.
- YOU HAVE TO RE2PECT HIM – no matter how much you hate the Yankees, speaking from experience here, you can’t help but appreciate what Derek Jeter has meant to the game.
- ENDORSEMENT BIAS? – Jeter still has his fair share of endorsements from big name companies involved with baseball; Nike, Gatorade, Jordan, etc. Would he have to part with those deals and paychecks in order to sit in the Commissioner’s chair?
1. CAL RIPKEN, JR.
The Iron Man played 2,632 consecutive games to earn that nickname. In 21 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, Ripken Jr recorded 3,184 hits, 431 homeruns and 1,695 RBIs, earning two Gold Gloves, 19 All-Star appearances, and 2 AL MVPs. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 with 98.53% of the vote, 6th highest of all time. Since then, he’s merely managed to become a best-selling author, publishing nearly 30 books, purchasing multiple minor-league baseball teams, stay active in charity work and is still considered an ambassador for the game. Not to mention, he is the CEO of Ripken Baseball, Inc. whose goal is to “grow the love of baseball from a grassroots level.”
- AMBASSADOR OF BASEBALL – This man stands for baseball the way it should be played, and who could better protect the game we love from outrageous rumors like automated umpires?
- BASEBALL BUSINESS MAN – Since his playing days, Ripken Jr has owned and operated several minor-league teams and has expressed interest in owning the Baltimore Orioles someday.
- SOMEONE TO BE PROUD OF – nobody dislikes Cal Ripken Jr, I mean come on.
- WOULD HE DO IT? – He seems to be doing just fine on his own, and you can bet he’s well aware that being the Commissioner of Major League Baseball is a thankless job.