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Hall of Famer Rod Carew is not happy about the state of baseball, and he let MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred know about it at a dinner a few weeks ago.
While he recently made news for expressing his joy at the news that Los Angeles Angels Owner Arte Moreno is selling the team, he was much less happy with Manfred.
Carew wrote about the confrontation in a recent newsletter, describing how uncomfortable Manfred was with the discussion, saying he “looked as if he wished there was a trap door that he could’ve escaped through.”
The Athletic quoted Manfred saying that Carew violated the private nature of the dinner by going public with his comments:
“The idea that somebody is talking about in the detail that Rod elected to is wholly inappropriate,” Manfred said. “It’s not up to one person to decide that an assumption the group has proceeded on for years, he can blow up by himself.”
For his part, Carew claims it wasn’t just him questioning the commissioner about the state of the game,
“I don’t think he expected us to talk about it. But we’re all interested in the game and what’s going on in the game. We’re trying to get to see if he would talk to us about it. In a roundabout way, he did. But I think a lot of guys weren’t satisfied so they kept asking him questions.”
The key issue at the heart of the disagreement was apparently the role of analytics in the current iteration of baseball:
“Carew and other Hall of Famers, voicing frustration shared by many currently working in the game, say analytics is damaging the sport and negatively affecting the way players perform.”
Manfred agreed with Carew, to an extent, saying that analytics are having a “deleterious effect” on the way the game plays out on the field, while acknowledging that numbers based decision making is here to stay.
He also said that the competition committee, which is discussing new rules such as banning the shift, will have a positive impact on the product on the field, and indicated he wants that process to play out before judging where the game is heading.
Both sides clearly have points here.
Analytics has removed a lot of guesswork from baseball; left handed hitters grounding balls to second baseman playing in short right field is not necessarily the most exciting play to watch.
That said, analytics have inarguably led to better teams. Beyond just the data on batted balls, advancements in player tracking, pitch development and swing optimization have led to the incredible talent on display night in and night out across the league.
Analytics are always going to be part of baseball, because teams have realized that it’s their best chance of developing competitive rosters.
But ideally, there would be a balance of modern methods with traditional baseball action. Players routinely step out of the batters box for endless amounts of time. Pitchers step off repeatedly, or throw to 1st to stall.
Not to mention the walk up music, where players take longer to get to the plate in the first place. And of course, ever expanding commercial breaks.
Fixing baseball won’t be easy, but for one legendary player, Rob Manfred has not done a particularly good job of trying.