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Has Rob Manfred blown his best chance to get rid of Chief Wahoo?

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Back in October, as the World Series caused attention to be paid anew to the Indians racist logo, Chief Wahoo, Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke about the topic at the Hank Aaron Award ceremony. His words, while carefully stated and diplomatic, were nonetheless clear.

Manfred acknowledged that Wahoo is offensive. He acknowledged that “all of us at Major League Baseball understand why.” Importantly, he said that it is not a “both sides have merit” situation. Indeed, he specifically said that the mere fact that some people do not find Wahoo to be offensive did not validate their opinion, even if they’re free to hold it. This jibes with what I have heard privately from Major League Baseball officials. The league hates Wahoo, is embarrassed by it and wants it gone, even if it has limited authority to make it happen.

But the league can persuade and, to that end, Manfred said this:

“I’ve talked to Mr. [Indians owner and CEO Paul] Dolan about this issue. We’ve agreed away from the World Series at an appropriate time we will have a conversation about this.”

There has been no public evidence or reporting of a conversation between Manfred and Dolan about Chief Wahoo. It’s possible that they discussed the matter at an owners meeting or at the Winter Meetings, but none of that has come to light as of yet. What we do know is that, tomorrow, Major League Baseball is going to award Cleveland with the single biggest thing MLB can unilaterally award a club’s ownership with: an All-Star Game, and all of the financial, marketing and public relations benefits that confers on a team and its ownership.

I am sensitive to the realities of club-league relations and I appreciate that the internal management and marketing of a club is not something with which Major League Baseball has any interest in inserting itself. I do not for one moment think that Major League Baseball can simply order the Indians to change their ways and get rid of Chief Wahoo or that, even if it could, it would be a good idea for it to set that sort of precedent.

But it’s one thing to order the Indians to do this. It’s another thing altogether to award a club with baseball’s shiniest jewel with some conditions that are in the best interests of the league. Or, as happened with the Orioles recently, to punish a team by taking away an All-Star Game if it does something which displeases the league. Which is to say that if the award of the 2019 All-Star Game to Cleveland was not conditioned on a phase-out of Chief Wahoo, Manfred’s words back on October on this matter were empty, as is his claim that he understands the concerns of those who want to see Wahoo gone.

Knowing that Major League Baseball does not like to publicize anything controversial, I will give the league the benefit of the doubt here. I will assume that, no, they are not going to issue a press release about the abolition of Chief Wahoo and they’re certainly not going to do it in a manner which overshadows the All-Star announcement. If and when Wahoo is kicked to the curb it will no doubt be portrayed as the Indians doing it themselves, at least publicly, and it will be spun as a positive thing, not a punitive thing.

That said: we will eagerly watch tomorrow’s press conference for a suggestion that Manfred actually used the enormous leverage he had over the Indians in this instance. We will watch the Indians’ uniforms and merchandise going forward to see if Manfred failed to use that maximal leverage over Paul Dolan to do something he claimed last October to be in the league’s interest. We will watch to see if Major League Baseball truly cares about one of its clubs waving a racist banner or if, instead, it merely pretends to care about that when, like last October, everyone is watching.

Nationals release Joe Nathan and Matt Albers

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At the end of January, the Nationals signed relievers Joe Nathan and Matt Albers. Today the Nationals have released Joe Nathan and Matt Albers.

Nathan, 42, pitched in just ten games last year, totaling only six and a third innings, between the Giants and the Cubs. He missed the entire 2015 season except for one third of an inning on Opening Day. Albers pitched in 58 games for the White Sox last year, posting an unsightly 6.31 ERA He pitched wonderfully in 30 games in 2015 however.

This spring Nathan and Albers pitched in more games than any other Nats relievers. Twelve for Nathan, ten for Albers. And they pitched well, with Nathan giving up five earned runs and Albers none. Apparently, however, there just isn’t room on the roster for those two.

This could be the end of the line for Nathan, a 16-year veteran with 377 career saves.

Six-year old boy reports the Indians want to give Francisco Lindor a seven-year contract

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The substance of the report is not shocking. Francisco Lindor is one of baseball’s brightest young stars and the Cleveland Indians would, no doubt, wish to lock him up for an extended period of time. The surprising part is the guy who reported that, yes, the Indians are working to get Lindor a seven-year extension.

That guy: six-year-old Brody Chernoff, son of Indians general manager Mike Chernoff. Brody was invited into the team’s broadcast booth during the ninth inning of their game against the Chicago White Sox. Indians announcer Tom Hamilton asked, no doubt jokingly, if his working on anything interesting. Brody:

“He’s trying to get, um, Lindor to play for seven more years,”

Again, not shocking. It would’ve been way worse if Brody had said “Dad’s working on a three-way deal that’ll send Naquin to an NL team in order to affect a three-way trade that’ll land us Verlander without having to deal directly with a divisional rival.” But I imagine Dad still would’ve preferred he not mention that.

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