Rob Manfred: “The Consigliere Commissioner”

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Missed this the other day, but here’s a great read from Tim Elfrink and Gus Garcia-Roberts at Grantland about incoming commissioner Rob Manfred.

It talks about how he got where he is now and, far more importantly, the manner in which he changed baseball’s approach to labor and, more significantly, PED issues. About how, working behind the scenes and largely unnoticed by the media, he played a huge role in crafting the current state of those worlds. Often by grabbing power when he could get away with it, often by wisely holding back and playing the long game. Never, it seems, losing his cool or sight of the larger picture.

A huge takeaway here: just how thoroughly Manfred has outfoxed the union on PED matters. It’s also worth nothing that, however much Bud Selig has grown in the job from an old school, kill-the-union commissioner to one who is more savvy about things, Manfred started out as savvy from the get-go. He’s a different man altogether than the union and baseball fans who pay attention to such matters is used to dealing with and, often, enjoy caricaturizing.

It’ll be interesting to see how the behind-the-scenes guy transitions into a front-and-center guy. Not for P.R. purposes as such. I mean, yes, people will focus on how Manfred performs in his “face of the game” role. As we’ve noted several times, however, that stuff isn’t the source of a commissioner’s power. The relationship with the owners is. Can Manfred continue to be as tough as he is portrayed in the article with the owners as commissioner as he was as consigliere? Or are there matters of soft power there that he’ll need to work on better?

He’s certainly smart enough to know what he doesn’t know. But brains aren’t always the be-all, end-all in power dynamics. Ask Tom Hagen, the guy who Elfrink and Garcia-Roberts start out their article with. He did his job well. Then, for a brief time anyway, was acting Don. It didn’t go too well. Eventually, he was pushed aside.