College Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: Commissioner doesn’t understand game he leads

It’s time for Major League Baseball to move on from the Rob Manfred era.

Manfred has been commissioner since Bud Selig retired in 2015 and has worked for Major League Baseball since 1998.

I can’t figure out why a man who doesn’t like baseball continues working for an industry that plays a game he doesn’t like.

Why a large majority of baseball owners — who hire and sometimes fire the commissioner — haven’t risen up and moved to get rid of Manfred (like they did to Faye Vincent in 1992) is beyond me.

The last straw with Manfred was his comments last weekend when he referred to the trophy that goes to the winner of the World Series every year as “just a piece of metal.” The trophy is known as the Commissioner’s Trophy and all 30 Major League Baseball teams beginning spring training this week have one goal in mind: winning that trophy.

But the commissioner, who presents the trophy to the winning team owner every October, considers it as “just a piece of metal.”

Manfred has since backtracked from his statement, but his remark angered Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner and many other players.

Since becoming commissioner, Manfred has seemingly set out to change how the game of baseball is played.

He says the games are too long, devoid of action and not appealing to today’s younger generation.

As a lifelong baseball fan, I can say that one of the beauties about baseball is that the game is timeless. A game consists of nine innings, three outs per side.

There is no running clock as in football, basketball, ice hockey, soccer or just about any other sport.

The games are over when they are over and not a moment sooner. Baseball fans don’t go to a game hoping it is over within a three-hour window anymore than Bruce Springsteen fans go to his concerts hoping they will end in three hours.

If you buy a ticket to a baseball game, you know going in there is no clock.

As commissioner, Manfred has lots of ways to speed up the game. The one that will have the least effect on the game itself would be to decrease the time between half innings. But that would cut into the commercial time given to the game’s broadcasting partners who pay Major League Baseball (and the players and owners) millions of dollars a year for the privilege of airing the games.

The broadcast partners make that money back by cramming as many commercials as they can into the between-innings windows.

The Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal has cast Major League Baseball in a bad light and Manfred’s comments since suspending the Astros manager and general manager for a year (they have since been fired by the team owner), fining the team $5 million and stripping them of four draft picks over the next two years was harsh enough to catch the attention of every other team.

While Manfred has been criticized for not penalizing any players connected to the scandal, he didn’t really have a choice. The Major League Baseball Players Association may be the strongest union in the country (it is definitely the strongest in professional sports) and Manfred didn’t need to provoke a war he couldn’t win with the players.

The players will pay by feeling the wrath of opposing players and fans for at least this season, if not the remainder of their careers.

Manfred’s comments about the Commissioner’s Trophy, coupled with the new rule that requires any pitcher entering the game to face three batters before being removed might take a minute or two off the length of games while denying baseball managers — especially in the National League — of some of the strategic moves that sets baseball apart from other sports.

Team owners want a commissioner they can control, who will continue to grow revenue, television ratings and interest in the game itself. A commissioner always finding fault with the game isn’t going to improve the game.

In five years on the job, Manfred has shown he is not the man for the job. The owners should take it into their hands and show him the door.

MADNESS APPROACHES: The college basketball season is finally starting to get interesting for Pac 12 Conference fans.

The Pac 12 men’s basketball tournament will be held March 11-14 in Las Vegas. The conference race is tight this year with Colorado and Oregon leading the way with 9-4 records. Arizona and Arizona State are a half-game behind the leaders at 8-4 and USC and UCLA are a game back at 8-5.

The Bruins have rebounded from a 1-3 conference start to win seven of their last nine games in an effort to avoid a second straight season without an NCAA Tournament bid.

Under first year coach Mick Cronin, the Bruins might have to win the conference tournament to get an NCAA tournament bid. They are probably going to have to go 4-1 down the stretch and win a conference tournament game or two to convince the NCAA Tournament committee they belong.

The Bruins face Utah Feb. 20 and Colorado Feb. 22 on the road, Arizona State Feb. 27 and Arizona Feb. 29 in Pauley Pavilion and then end the season with a game at USC’s Galen Center March 7.

The Trojans looked like a cinch to make the tournament after an 11-2 non-conference start, but they have been inconsistent on offense in conference action and also need a 4-1 run to end the season to clinch a tournament berth.

The conference can expect four teams to get invited to the tournament this year.

Next week’s game with the Arizona schools will be crucial to the Trojans’ and Bruins’ chances.