Rob Manfred's Twin Headaches | WYPR

Rob Manfred's Twin Headaches

May 8, 2017

Rob Manfred is third from the left.
Credit Arturo Pardavila III/flickr

At this time last week, baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred had few worries beyond where to get good stone crabs during the All-Star break in Miami in July.

And, then, within the space of two games between the Orioles and Red Sox in Boston, Manfred had a couple of crises on his hands.

In short order, Manfred, the latest of the Big Four American sports bosses to get his powers, had to solve racism and deal with a group of recalcitrant boys passing as grown-ups who don’t know how to get along.

Of the two problems, the racism thing, believe it or not, was the easiest for Manfred to cope with.

You see, no one in his right mind expects Manfred or anyone, for that matter, to solve the ugliness that revealed itself when a Fenway Park yahoo or more yelled racial slurs and threw peanuts at the Orioles’ Adam Jones.

Let’s face it: While Manfred’s making about $11 million a year as the commish, solving what’s wrong with the human heart is way above his pay grade.

Manfred did about what you would expect someone in his position to do. He issued a requisite statement condemning what happened in Boston, then asked the 30 Major League teams to tell him what they do to combat racism in their stands before coming up with some kind of policy.

Eventually, however, Manfred will have to do more. The nation and the 62 black Major League players will be watching to see what happens next and what baseball, the game of Jackie Robinson, does about it.

Which brings us to the next issue, namely baseball players and their seeming obsession with settling scores over perceived slights.

Talk about issues as old as time: Ever since Abner Doubleday first rolled out the first tarp in the 19th century, pitchers and batters have griped with each other over one beef or another.

The most recent beef was triggered when Orioles third baseman Manny Machado slid hard into Boston’s Dustin Pedroia during a series here last month drawing blood.

Red Sox pitchers, no doubt at the urging of their manager, John Farrell, looked to get even with Machado by throwing at him in Baltimore and again last week in Boston.

One of those so-called purpose pitches went for Machado’s head, drawing a four-game suspension from MLB.

Machado has responded, in a way, by hitting long home runs, then taking an inordinate amount of time to round the bases, which is seen, in baseball parlance as humiliating the pitcher.

One of those Boston pitchers, Chris Sale, responded to one of Machado’s trots by throwing behind him, which drew a lengthy and profane response from Machado.

The next night, Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman was ejected from the game in the first inning for hitting a Red Sox batter with a pitch in the back.

In the midst of it all, Manfred essentially told the two teams to knock it off, but it looks like he’s going to have to venture beyond the symbolic.

Though these men are acting like petulant boys, their bats and balls can maim or kill. Having that happen on his watch would be Rob Manfred’s worst nightmare come to life. 

And that's how I see it for this week.