A look at MLB commissioner Rob Manfred one year into the job

On Jan. 25, Rob Manfred celebrated his one-year anniversary as commissioner of Major League Baseball. He started a five-year term last year as Bud Selig's successor.

Manfred served as MLB's vice president of labor relations before being named the league's chief operating officer in 2013. A Harvard Law graduate, he had served as the head of labor negotiations for 19 years since the 1994 strike and he was a key component in implementing baseball's current drug testing system.

Manfred has a lot on his plate. He continues to oversee pace of game measures, has talked about implementing an international draft and expanding the sport's youth initiatives. He needs to determine ways to continue to grow the product and keep baseball up to date with the latest technology. And MLB's current labor agreement with the players will expire on Dec. 1. Keeping the long-standing labor peace will be huge, of course.

I like the fact that Manfred seems very open to debate and discussion about the game. He has already stirred the pot a bit with some comments about defensive shifts and use of the designated hitter in both leagues. It seems pretty clear though that Manfred is not rushing into anything. But what is wrong with debating and discussing how to try and make the sport better?

baseballs-in-bin-sidebar.jpgIn mid-December, Manfred's handling of the situation involving Pete Rose was impressive to me. Manfred announced that Rose's lifetime ban from baseball would not be changed and would continue. Not taking a side here as to whether Rose should have been reinstated, but it was an interview Manfred did that impressed me. Again, not with his final decision, but the way he went about making it and how he responded to questions about that situation.

You can watch that interview here with ESPN's T.J. Quinn. At one point, Quinn said to Manfred, "One of the common complaints you hear from supporters of his are, 'Why is it that a PED (performance-enhancing drug) user can get back on the field and Pete Rose can't?'"

"I think there is two big reasons," Manfred responded. "First of all, the penalties for both PED use and gambling are laid out in a really clear way. And they are not the same. You can debate whether they should be closer together, should be the same. But the fact of the matter is that we have rules that govern both.

"I think the second reason that the gambling rule is so much more severe is that gambling can undermine the integrity of the play on the field and the public's confidence in that game.

"There are a lot of things wrong with PED use. Many, many things wrong with PED use. But the fact of the matter is, it does not create a suggestion that somebody is not trying to win the game. As a matter of fact, it's the opposite. They are trying too hard to win the game."

Maybe the biggest issue for Manfred moving forward is to maintain the competitive balance we have seen the last few years in baseball. For all his critics, Selig helped create a landscape where the days of the biggest payroll teams winning every year came to an end.

We have seen the Tampa Bay Rays beat the big boys in the American League East. We've seen the Pittsburgh Pirates make the playoffs, four different teams win the AL East in the last four years and now the Kansas City Royals win the World Series with the 16th-highest payroll.

MLB is doing a lot right. At a time when every game is on television, 24 teams drew attendance of at least two million and five teams attracted over 3,000,000 fans last season.

If baseball can maintain labor peace (which seems very likely) and keep its product somewhat affordable, this run of great health for the sport should continue into the foreseeable future. Manfred reflected on his first year in this extensive interview.

Manfred has cast a wide net in looking at the game and ways to make it even better. He seems like he could become a great leader for the sport.

What is your take on Manfred and in what ways can the game and/or the fan experience improve?

Cleaning out my notebook
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