Rob Manfred has taken the baton from outgoing commissioner Bud Selig, becoming MLB’s 10th commissioner and earning the right to preside over the game during a time in which it is enjoying exceptional popularity. That is not to say that Manfred has inherited a position that will be easy, as there are many complex issues that he must address in his first season on the job. There are issues of competitive balance, pace of play and popularity that are central to the game’s ability to stay relevant for many years to come.
The position of MLB Commissioner is incredibly difficult, and Manfred has already ruffled some feathers with some of his most recent comments. How he chooses to navigate these early issues will shape this new era of baseball under his watch, but early missteps will certainly not define him. After all, Bud Selig is leaving the position and is being hailed as one of baseball’s greatest commissioners, with many conveniently forgetting that he oversaw an era that included a canceled World Series and incredibly rampant use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs.
The following 10 issues, however, deserve serious and immediate attention, as some will have an immediate impact on the game, while others will affect the game in the future if not properly addressed. How Commissioner Manfred decides to proceed with these issues will provide some important insight on how the game will look going forward, and it will also affect the popularity of the game and its continued status as America’s Pastime.
10 The Defensive Shift
9 Pace of Play and the Length of Games
8 Reinstating Pete Rose
7 Generating Interest Among a Younger Generation of Fans
6 Integrating Technology
5 Making Players More Accessible
4 Properly Acknowledging the Game’s History
3 Maintaining Healthy Relations Between Players and MLB
2 Capitalizing on the Current Strength of the Game
1 Getting Greater Youth Participation in Baseball at All Levels
The long-term health of the game is reliant on getting greater participation in youth baseball leagues, and Commissioner Manfred has already mentioned the importance of this in his first interviews. The popularity of the game is currently strong, but there is some concern that it is not popular enough among the younger generation and, if participation in youth leagues continues to wane, the quality and depth of available players in the future could hurt the game on a competitive level. Of particular concern is the lack of African-American players currently playing at the MLB level, which, as of 2014’s Opening Day, was just 8.3%. MLB has looked into various initiatives at addressing this issue, but greater attention is still needed to improve participation among not just African-Americans, but the younger generation as a whole.
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