Being hated comes with the territory when you're commissioner of a major sports league. It is impossible to please everyone and any and all of the game's problems fall on you. Commissioners make the big bucks to keep as many people happy as possible.
In his eight years at the helm, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has presided over unprecedented revenue growth, but also the sport's first work stoppage in a quarter-century, a massive cheating scandal, and growing uncertainty about the baseball itself. It doesn't help that Manfred has an unfortunate knack for putting his foot in his mouth and comes across as insensitive publicly.
"I regret it because it's disrespectful to the game," Manfred told ESPN about calling the World Series trophy a "piece of metal" two years ago. "I also regret it because I was being defensive about something."
As part of an ESPN profile, Manfred admits to a great many regrets, including smiling at the podium when announcing the first week of MLB games had been postponed due to the owners' lockout this spring. From ESPN:
Two days later, Manfred was back at MLB's midtown Manhattan headquarters to preside over an all-hands meeting of nearly 1,000 MLB employees, some assembled in a large atrium and others joining via Zoom. The mood was somber. Manfred had called the session to update league employees on the lockout and offer an explanation for his ill-timed smile (For the record, he says it was a friendly gesture toward a reporter who approached to place a recording device on the podium just as Manfred was looking for somewhere to lay his notes).
"I'm getting killed out there," he confessed.
Manfred took offense when asked whether he even likes baseball -- "It is the most ridiculous thing, among some fairly ridiculous things that get said about me," he said -- but how is he supposed to respond to that question? No, I don't like baseball? That would be a career killer, though I admit I would respect the honesty. That "do you like baseball?" is not a completely unreasonable question is the sort of thing that should prompt introspection.
It is should be noted Manfred's legacy extends beyond his eight years as commissioner. He was on MLB's negotiating team for the 1994-95 players' strike -- "Oh, it was the worst year of my life," he said -- and he was on then-commissioner Bud Selig's staff during the so-called Steroid Era. "In a perfect world (we) should have been aware of the use of steroids from the minute it became an issue among the players. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world," Manfred remarked.
Manfred regrets many thing about his tenure as commissioner but rarely has he taken responsibility for any of them. It's apologize, then move on to the next thing that will require an apology. Commissioner is a no-win proposition in a sport as steeped in tradition as baseball, though Manfred does himself no favors with his public persona. And at this point, winning over fans feels impossible.