Rob Manfred went on record saying that he hoped the Indians would get rid of Chief Wahoo in October 2016, during the World Series. In January 2017, Manfred met with Indians owner Larry Dolan for the specific purpose of discussing the matter of Chief Wahoo. At the conclusion of that meeting, Manfred announced that the Indians had been awarded the 2019 All-Star Game.
You don’t have to be a genius to assume that part of the deal for getting the All-Star Game was Dolan agreeing to phase out Wahoo then, right? I mean, this is how it was reported by Paul Hoynes at the time:
Commissioner Rob Manfred met with Indians owner Paul Dolan and minority owner John Sherman on Friday morning at Progressive Field to discuss the team’s Chief Wahoo logo.
After the meeting, Manfred announced that the Indians will host the 2019 All-Star Game.
Hoynes was at a press conference with Manfred this afternoon. This is what he wrote:
There has been a conspiracy theory dancing about since the Indians were awarded this year’s All-Star Game and dropped Chief Wahoo as their mascot . . . Commissioner Rob Manfred, a driving force behind the Indians dropping the Chief, said Tuesday afternoon that there was no link between the Indians getting the All-Star Game and dropping the Chief.
“Conspiracy theory?” You buyin’ that? I ain’t buyin’ that. I’m especially not buying that given Manfred’s comment during today’s presser:
“The All-Star Game was awarded to Cleveland by Commissioner (Bud) Selig before I even had one conversation about Chief Wahoo,” said Manfred, at his annual All-Star meeting with members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. “You can write that as fact.”
Selig retired in January 2015. Which suggests that Major League Baseball kept the Cleveland All-Star Game secret for over two years for . . . reasons? I dunno.
In the event, the Indians announced the phasing out of Wahoo in January 2018. That was, to be fair, a year after the All-Star Game was awarded. Er, I’m sorry, after it’s alleged Selig-era awarding was announced. That doesn’t make me think it was anything less than forced deal, though. The Indians had long been sensitive about the marketing and P.R. impact of phasing out Wahoo. It’s the only reason they kept him so long. It would not shock me at all if Manfred gave Dolan a year to announce it and another full season to put it into effect. Indeed, a couple of months after the 2017 meeting, Dolan said the Wahoo matter would be “resolved within a couple of years.” He knew as early as then that Wahoo was gone.
And it’s not like Manfred did not retain leverage. He famously took the All-Star Game away from Baltimore a couple of years ago. He and Dolan both knew he could take it away from Cleveland if Dolan displeased him.
But I guess all that’s just a “conspiracy theory.” We are crazy to make a connection between a meeting in which Manfred told Dolan he wanted Wahoo gone and a press conference a few minutes later in which it was announced that Cleveland was awarded the All-Star Game. Nope, those are totally unrelated things.