Really, we all knew this would be the case with Rob Manfred. The commissioner of MLB all but unilaterally decided that an existing rule on foreign substances be enforced by umpires in the middle of the season in 2021. Technically, the commish will say that other persons participated in the decision. Mainly he’s pointed to MLB consultant Theo Epstein as a contributor. But, as Washington Nationals’ pitcher Max Scherzer perfectly put it, it’s a “Manfred rule.”
Rob Manfred decided it was an issue.
Rob Manfred enacted a change that makes umpires who are not trained in determining what exactly a foreign substance is decide what a foreign substance is and give said umpire the power to remove a player from a game.
And Rob Manfred unknowingly admitted it was all because he didn’t want national headlines painting Major League Baseball in a negative light after a number of missteps under his stewardship.
Speaking with MLB Network this week, while explaining why the change was made in the middle of a season, the commissioner made it clear that he made the rule change because he didn’t want negative press haunting baseball… again.
I see it as part of a process. We started before the 2020 season before we had the individual in Anaheim that was caught with the substances. We told the clubs we thought this was problem, they had to focus on it. They came back at the beginning of this season we told them again. We told them there ultimately was going to be discipline. We gave people a couple of months, we were hoping it was gonna get better. Quite frankly, it didn’t get better. It probably got worse.
And so I just see the change that took place this week as part of a continuing process to enforce a rule that’s been on the books a long time and I didn’t want to get to the end of a season and have somebody, god forbid, write a story ‘the World Series was decided because this player or that player was using a foreign substance.’ I just wasn’t willing to take that risk.
Under Rob Manfred’s leadership, Major League Baseball has faced scrutiny more than a handful of times. But none have been bigger than the sign-stealing scandal involving the cheating Houston Astros. And with that scandal, MLB faced massive national backlash outside of the usual baseball circles.
This one was front-page news…and Robbie didn’t want that black eye again.
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Take the enforcement of rule 3.01 via rule 6.02 as you will. Was it needed? Sure. Should it have happened in the middle of a season? Probably not. Should it have happened unilaterally in the middle of a season leading up to the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement with a union that you already struggle to get along with? Absolutely not.
But if national media maybe might potentially write a story that paints you in a bad light, apparently anything is fair game.