New York, NY - In the world of MLB, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who is in better spirits than MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. Baseball, after a rather rough start to the calendar year 2022, is off and rolling. The issues that dominated the headlines back in February, from the greed of owners to the rights of players and draftees, are buried deep in the recesses of the sports sites, as they now focus on ERA, slash lines, competitive balance, and trade speculation.
“All is transpiring exactly as I have foreseen” noted Manfred, sitting imperiously from his throne, er, office at MLB headquarters. “Yes, we had the struggles and the labor strife might have almost derailed the season, but did you think I was going to let that happen? You have to build the drama, and get people to the edge of their seats. Besides, I knew that if we faced major labor issues, and then we could resolve them at near-to-the-last second, the fans would have such gratitude that they would come back to the park and appreciate that which matters most to them: shelling out nearly a $100 a pop to enjoy grown-men play a kids’ game and make my executives so much more money.”
Our reporter seemed incredulous “Wait, you are telling me that you planned all of that? That the labor dispute negotiation positions, the last-second resolution…all of that was part of your master plan?”
“Yes. You see, your feeble skills are no match for the power of the MLB Commissioner. You can only think in terms of the short-notice headlines, the surface-level interpretation of events. You have to learn to take a longer view, a more nuanced approach, and play that critical long game.”
“And trust me, the plan since the end of the 2021 season has been in full force. By holding the shadow of a labor stoppage over everyone’s heads, it drove all of the teams to make the big free agency splashes right away. The Mets, who are a central part of this saga, took that to heart. Also, so many other teams did the same, generating high interest and killing the narrative that we, at MLB, were trying to suppress spending. Then the lock-out, to make everyone realize how much they miss the game. Then, we resolve the impasse, other teams, like the vital Dodgers, make their big free agency moves, and BOOM! We have baseball.”
“You notice how all of those pearl-clutching baseball-is-dead narratives are fading away?”
Our reporter did note that there weren’t quite as many of those stories out there.
“See. And the plan gets even better. Have you noted the latest MLB standings?”
Our reporter nodded, a bit put off by the fact that Manfred thought he didn’t at least consult the MLB webpage for a hot second to check that.
“Notice something about the top of the standings for a number of teams, especially a certain 4 squads from the two largest media markets?”
“Ok…and your point?”
“My point is, that the New York and the Los Angeles teams are leading in their divisions. The dream, promoted in the initial CBA proposals, is coming to fruition. Think of the ratings, the ad dollars??? Come playoff times, it is going to be so, so, so wonderful. Think of the League Championship Series? The two biggest media markets, with dual LCS? Fanatical, crazed mindless fans cheering with their hearts and paying through all of their orifices for tickets and beer and…oh, POWERGASM!!!!”
“Of course, there are still some details we will need to work out. Going to have to see about one NY team having home field in one league and one LA team having home field in the other. Gotta have that balance. And under NO circumstance can one city have BOTH World Series teams. A single city Fall Classic, however great for the city, will be poison for our ratings, which must and will improve.”
“I would love to see my Yankees, er, the Yankees go at it against the Dodgers, with all of that talent, and all of the money that goes along with it. That is priority one. Still, a Mets/Angels series holds strong appeal. You get [Mike] Trout, and [Shohei] Ohtani bringing in the Japanese market, coupled with New York prominence…it will be a thing of beauty. The ratings!!! Oh boy, the ratings for either of those matchups?!”
“Oh, and revenge is a dish best served cold. For screwing up the ratings and embarrassing me, some teams are facing such payback. You notice that Atlanta is kinda sucking right now. Glad one of my faithful servants put the bug in Atlanta’s ear to not re-sign Freddy Freeman. Now look at them, struggling once again in the NL East below .500. However, the Mets, thanks to my efforts to drive their free agency spending and [Francisco] Lindor getting comfortable in New York, will make short work of that division. And those pesky Rays. Look, I love a feel-good story as much as any, but they gave us the lowest-rated World Series of all time. Let them make the playoffs and then someone finish them off.”
Our reporter did pause briefly. “Uh, I think you might have missed something there.”
“I don’t miss anything. Still, what is your point?”
“Uh, the standings for the AL West, I don’t see the Angels at the top…technically.”
“Wait a minute…give me that!!!” Manfred summoned the phone as with a magnetic force. “Oh…oh, I see what you mean. Well, it is not that much of a difference, and it is early in the season. I guess I figured THEY would get back into the chase. Had hopes THAT team would finally fade away from consciousness. As if I needed more reminders about THEM…that last World Series match-up still leaves a bitter taste…and don’t get me started about 2017 and 2019 and the start of 2020 [loud retching noises follow].”
“Still, I always have branch plans and contingencies. My boy Nightingale is coming through, stirring up a great soap opera between Crane and Cashman. Always great when two old rich white dudes get into a Mean-Girls style tiff. Wonderful for ratings. I mean, every season needs a real villain, and my Yankees, er, sorry, THE Yankees, just aren’t the black-hat-wearing gang of old. Hoping to set up a great ALDS, where the forces of good and ginormous ratings take them down in a saga of redemption and justice.”
“You sure that is going to work?” Our reporter asked skeptically.
“Hey, it’s been working so far. Why stop now? The master plan never fails…right Master??”
“Good boy!!!” Exclaimed Hank Steinbrenner as he reached over to scratch Manfred behind the ears and give him a Milky Bone treat.
Manfred smiled benignly as Steinbrenner left. Once out “As if he thinks he holds the real power. Ain’t I a great actor? And the plan moves forward...”