Notes: Manfred’s legacy, uniforms, ‘collusion’

What will we remember Rob Manfred for, plus the latest on the pants, and the use of the “c-word”

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For Baseball Prospectus this week, I covered what commissioner Rob Manfred’s legacy could be (paid subscription required). It’s not a simple question, really, for two reasons: one, by the time Manfred leaves the role after the 2028 season, he’ll have been commissioner for nearly a decade-and-a-half, and two, there seems to be some new embarrassing thing he’s yelling about pretty much constantly.

The conclusion I drew is that, like with his predecessor and the man who handpicked Manfred for the role, Bud Selig, it’s going to be difficult to pinpoint one thing to be his legacy. It’s just a lot of negative shit, really. There was some good, for sure: as I mentioned, the pitch clock is genuinely fantastic and has removed much of the bloat from the game, and while it didn’t end up successful in an official capacity, essentially attempting to remove Trevor Bauer from existence is something to be appreciated. (Hey, maybe it was just public relations at work, but given Bauer’s whole rotten to the core deal, I’d take the nabbing him on tax evasion equivalent if that’s what’s there.) Overall, though, there’s simply too much awfulness, too much mean-spirited, contentious behavior, for Manfred’s legacy to be anything but, in a word, “bad.” I think it says something that I didn’t even bother including the time he called the World Series trophy a piece of metal. The list of big picture stuff was just too great, with the most recent being his expert-level strategy regarding everyone being given x-ray vision when looking at players’ pants.

Speaking of the pants… it seems as if a fix is on the way. Maybe. Can’t really guarantee anything on that front, but Players Association’ executive director Tony Clark seems to believe — or at least has been told, and is waiting to see if it actually happens before getting more publicly upset in official statements to the media — that the players’ concerns have been heard and some kind of addressing of said concerns is in the works. That’s from what was said to The Athletic’s Jayson Stark, at least.

“Everyone is aware of the concerns,” Clark said Wednesday. “So whether it’s the league or it’s Nike, everyone is aware of those concerns. And (the league and Nike) have suggested in public statements, and otherwise, that they’re engaged with an eye on correcting what can be corrected.”

Clark declined to comment further and suggested The Athletic pose questions to MLB about what might come next. A league spokesperson responded to those questions with a statement that MLB issued earlier this spring.

A commenter couldn’t believe that I’d include the uniforms in my piece on Manfred’s legacy given their newness, but come on. Read the above and tell me that this isn’t obviously going to be a problem that stretches on for ages, and becomes yet another embarrassing stain on Manfred’s legacy. Clark’s response to the uniform question is very much the politest — but with some hints of disbelief — way to say “why don’t you ask the screw-ups how it’s going?”

How is it going? Well, MLB hasn’t updated their statement yet. And teams are playing games but some of them are short on pants at all, which is not a problem anyone has ever considered to be possible, really. Say what you will about Fanatics and their production of awful jerseys that are inferior to and less convincing than unofficial knockoffs, but they sure are innovators in the space.

Dodgers’ infielder Kiké Hernández was recently on the YouTube Show Foul Territory, and he had some things to say about his extended free agency: “I’m not going to say the c-word, but I think the c-word needs a capital C.” The C-word in question here is “collusion,” as Hernandez went on to talk about the similarity in both the size of the offers he received as well as the timing of them. ““I think the teams that are using these computer systems to project numbers, project salaries, they’re all using the same one and I think they all have the same password. So that’s how free agency is going, and it’s not just me.”

Hernandez is far from the first to bring up something like this in the past — it was an ongoing concern for players during the previous collective bargaining agreement as well, and something that, if left unchecked in the last negotiations, was only going to get worse. It’s the kind of “legalized” collusion that I’ve been writing about since the 2017-2018 offseason, and surely informs the abundance of free agents still waiting to be signed even though spring training games are going.

My guess is that this is all part of the push to try to force a signing deadline for free agents in the next CBA — make free agency as intolerable as possible for a wide range of its population, so that players are desperate for change and susceptible to trying something new. It’s that, or Fanatics has screwed things up even more than we know, and there simply aren’t any available pants for Jordan Montgomery to wear. Either way, this is all something to keep an eye on.

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