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“Surely things will be different with a new commissioner,” you think. No, no they will not. Maybe you’d be a little less angry at a new commissioner’s general public attitude, but their job is to be the representative of MLB’s 30 owners, which is to say, the job is to lie. To you, to local, state, and federal governments, to the players, to anyone who needs to hear the lies that would benefit the owners if they’re heard.
I got into this at Baseball Prospectus last week, in the wake of Rob Manfred basically making fun of A’s fans for getting together for one last home game to tell John Fisher where he could shove the Las Vegas stadium legislation. People dislike Manfred very much, and think things would be better with a new commissioner, but that’s just not how it goes by design:
Manfred might rub both players and fans the wrong way, as he’s openly antagonistic, petty, mean, and a rather unconvincing liar, but (most of) that has little to do with his role. The commissioner’s job is the same whether they’re publicly aggressive, timid as a mouse, or are easily mocked because they’re caught on camera picking their nose like Selig. The rest is noise that is meant to obscure the truth of things, which is that things won’t be “better” with another commissioner. The role requires a certain level of awfulness at its base, and no one who would do anything in the best interests of baseball will ever hold the role—now, in the best interests of Baseball, at least there’s some truth in that.
None of this is a defense of Manfred, of course. The guy is a terror. But so was his predecessor; people just cut Selig a bit more slack then because he at least genuinely seemed like he enjoyed the sport of baseball, and because his persona was more buffoon who stumbled around and crashed into things than a robot designed to murder the things you love. Selig, though, was like Phil Hartman playing Ronald Reagan on Saturday Night Live: the second the cameras went away, the man was a focused, cold-blooded killer. And also he helped drug use become rampant in the community, then blamed the users for it. Huh, I can get more mileage out of that one than I initially thought.
Anyway, whoever succeeds Manfred might be a better liar or come off better in public, but the job will be the same: you’ll just swallow the lie a little easier this time around. It’s important to remember that, the next time you want Manfred to hit the road. I have no affinity for him, either, but at least he’s continuing to expose that the commissioner’s role isn’t to act as a steward of the game, even if the league tells you that’s the idea.
As Neil deMause wrote about at Field of Schemes recently, the A’s having their stadium legislation pass isn’t the end of that kind of talk around the league. The Royals are currently making noise about their own stadium needs, though, those noises are a whole lot quieter.
They’ve got two sites picked out for a potential new stadium, but here’s the weird thing: Royals’ owner John Sherman hasn’t made any kind of real demands about how the stadium would be paid for in either location:
Privately, people inside those meetings expressed exasperation that while the Royals publicly portray progress on the stadium effort, there’s actually little momentum behind the scenes. Despite months of meetings, public officials still have no sharper picture of what the team wants.
They wonder: After all this time, do the Royals even know?
The Royals insist they are not hiding specific details, but rather have not settled on them. In an interview with The Star on Tuesday, team president of business operations Brooks Sherman said the team has narrowed to two possible sites and is on course to announce its choice by the end of the summer.
It’s all just a little weird. Are they waiting for the two sites to start a bidding war on their own, to see if one is willing to overpay? Or to see which site is more willing to overpay? It’s all just a little odd, considering the Royals keep talking about how this is all progressing when it isn’t, and that word is this will be a $2 billion project. Annoying your negotiating partners worked for the A’s, I guess, maybe that’s the new strategy league-wide.
The Wall Street Journal published an article last week on The Athletics’ Shams Charania, an NBA reporter who focuses on breaking news, and also happens to have a paid, commercial partnership with gambling hub, FanDuel. It’s a little hard to explain in brief, so you should read the whole thing — it’s behind the paywall, but you get a limited number of free WSJ articles, so you should use one of them for that.
It’s a vital look into the shifting landscape of sports media, where someone like Charania is allowed to just embed themselves into this culture of gambling as part of their work, even though their work can shift the gambling lines themselves. Charania doesn’t have to be doing anything particularly nefarious for it to be odious, basically: his work can make FanDuel money simply because it gets people to change their bets. Now, this would happen whether Charania was a FanDuel partner or not, but the fact remains that he is: FanDuel makes money from his non-FanDuel work, like when late-breaking reports change betting lines but then turn out to be nothing but smoke without fire, and Charania then gets paid by FanDuel. They’re connected, even if they’re not: it’s something the industry is going to have to figure out in ways beyond, “hey you’re not allowed to use FanDuel yourself while you’re a reporter.”
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