Rob Manfred presides over either the sickest healthy patient or the healthiest sick patient.
Major league revenue has never been higher (more than $10 billion now). New substantial media deals with Fox and DAZN, a subscription-based streaming-video service, were inked this offseason, and ESPN is in the wings. And the promises of even greater wealth coming with legal gambling hovers (MGM became MLB’s official gaming partner this winter).
MLB’s wallet floweth over.
Yet the sense of a league someplace between flailing and failing lingers. The games are generally perceived as moving too slowly — a particular worry when trying to lure generations with ever-decreasing attention spans. The belief too many teams are not even trying to win perpetuates. The tensions between the union and the commissioner’s office are the worst since the lost World Series of 1994. Attendance last year sank below 70 million — with 17 teams showing declines.
More than anyone, it is Manfred’s responsibility to heal the patient, to increase success beyond the financial bottom line. It is why the commissioner tops the list of Hardball’s annual 50 Most Interesting People in Baseball (last year’s rank in parentheses)