Sometimes an idea for a topic comes to you and you immediately know where you want to go with said topic. Other times you think of a topic and then spend a lot of time trying to figure out what exactly it is you want to write about that topic. Based on the current state of affairs in Major League Baseball I knew that I wanted to write about Rob Manfred. I did write something but wasn’t too happy with the final product. I racked my brain trying to think of why I couldn’t figure out how to properly express my feelings towards the Commissioner of Baseball. Then it hit me, I have trouble writing about Manfred because he’s a vacuous individual.
As baseball fans, we tend to latch onto personalities. The players who show flare either become our favorites or we hate them with a passion, depending on where we fall on the “baseball should be fun” spectrum. Bat flips are a constant source of discussion because of the way it presents a player’s personality front and center. If we like the flip it’s because the player has a great personality. If we think bat-flipping is terrible then it’s because the player has a terrible personality. We structure these arguments in this manner because it helps to drive our rooting interest in the sport we are watching. Obviously, this isn’t true all the time or for every fan, but there is more than enough evidence that shows that strong personalities drive strong fan interest.
No one should expect Ron Manfred to have a bat-flipping sort of personality. He’s not on the ballfield, he’s not about to start flipping his pen every time he signs a new edict into order. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be able to see the type of person Manfred is. As the most prominent public figure for the organization of MLB we should know plenty about Manfred as a person. We don’t though, and while some of that can be chalked up to Manfred’s role the remainder can be explained by the type of personality Manfred has chosen to express to the public.
Vacuous was the first word that came to mind when I thought of Manfred. The more I read up on him, watched interviews, and thought about the personality he presented the more I knew my definition was spot on. It’s not so much that we don’t know who Manfred is, it’s that he refuses to engage in a way that makes it all too apparent what he is not. We know that he’s not a baseball fan, he makes that glaringly obvious whenever he talks about the game, it’s history, or it’s future. We know that he is not pro-labor, he makes that abundantly clear by taking orders from the owners. We know that he is not in favor of any effort that would curb the profits of MLB owners, which is again made clear via the orders he follows.
It’s good to know all the things that a person is not, but it’s more important to know all the things that a person is. What will that person fight for? What are their core beliefs and values? How does that person fit into the greater framework of the sphere they have chosen to inhabit? These are but a few things that help us to better understand a person. I can’t honestly tell you an answer for any of those questions as it pertains to Rob Manfred. If his main goal in life is to be an empty person who does what his bosses want and doesn’t really stand for anything then he is succeeding immensely. As we reveal the layers of a person there is always that chance that we will love what we discover just as much as we will hate what we find out. What does it say when with every layer of Rob Manfred that we peel back the end result is the same vapid emptiness as the previous layer?
There’s been a lot of talk about a new Commissioner of Baseball being appointed. That’s great, but I don’t think that is going to happen (nor do I think it will wind up being a good thing for reasons that are not germane to this discussion). The empty and vacuous individual who is Rob Manfred is exactly the sort of person that the owners want to guide the league. He is a lapdog, someone who does not think for himself or have any sort of personality that the owners would ever have to worry about giving them trouble.
Most Commissioners fall on the “not a good person” side of the ledger, but Manfred is the first Commissioner who is perfect for ownership in every possible way. A person can be a lackey to ownership, do their bidding at every turn, and look out for their interests and have that be the entirety of their personality. I just happen to find that to be an empty and vacuous personality which ultimately makes for an empty and vacuous person. When all you stand for is what your bosses want then you don’t really stand for anything, that’s the story of Rob Manfred and that will be his empty and wholly unnerving legacy.