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Rob Manfred was asked about the Marlins’ payroll plan and he might not have told the truth

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An interview on a Miami radio show got contentious.

Al Yellon

Commissioner Rob Manfred appeared on a radio talk show hosted by Dan Le Batard in Miami Wednesday. Le Batard pressed Manfred about the Derek Jeter group’s purchase of the Marlins and how it related to the Marlins dumping payroll and trading off Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon.

The interview quickly got heated:

In a combative interview on ESPN Radio, host Dan Le Batard told Manfred: “We are starting with a lie” when Manfred said he did not know the plans of new owners Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman during the approval process.

“I’m not going to have you call me a liar!” Manfred said.

But that’s apparently what Manfred did, according to that linked article by Barry Jackson in the Miami Herald:

Two people directly involved in the sales process said that Jeter and Sherman were required to tell other owners their intentions with payroll during the approval process, and that they informed the other owners that payroll would be cut from $115 million to the $85 million to $90 million range, with $85 million used at times and $90 million other times in those discussions.

A source directly involved in the Marlins sales process, after hearing the Le Batard interview, said, via text: “Commissioner said was not aware of [Jeter] plan to slash payroll. Absolutely not true. They request and receive the operating plan from all bidders.

“Project Wolverine [the name for Jeter’s plan] called on his group to reduce payroll to $85 million. This was vetted and approved by MLB prior to approval by MLB. Every [Jeter] investor and non investor has the Wolverine financial plan of slashing payroll to $85 million. Widely circulated.”

Regardless of whether specific players were mentioned in the discussion about payroll, it’s pretty clear that the Marlins’ payroll couldn’t have been slashed that much without trading those three specific players, and it’s pretty disingenuous — or just trying to lawyer his way out of it — of Manfred for claiming he didn’t know, which he apparently did on Le Batard’s show:

Pressed by Le Batard about whether he was aware of Jeter’s plan, Manfred said: “No. We did not have player specific plans from the Miami Marlins or any other team during the approval ownership process. Those are decisions the individual owners make. We do not approve operating decisions by any ownership, new owner or current owners. As a result, the answer is no.”

Next month, Manfred will enter his fourth year as commissioner. He was given a five-year contract in August 2014, and his term began in January 2015, so it will be up for renewal in about two years. That’s before the next labor agreement will be up for renewal — that won’t happen until after the 2021 season. Say what you want about Bud Selig, his commisionership reigned over 20 years of labor peace after the 1994-95 stoppage cancelled the World Series. Manfred’s missteps make Selig look good. For all of Selig’s flaws, he was an excellent consensus-builder, something Manfred could learn a thing or two about.

Beyond Manfred’s comments, what a mess they’ve made in Miami. Derek Jeter’s town-hall meeting with Marlins season-ticket holders went about as well as you might have expected:

One fan said the dismantling leaves that impression and expressed frustration with Jeter's talk about improving the spectator experience.

"You act like you ran out of money,'' the fan said. "You're not going to win here with dancing girls. You're going to win with ballplayers who know how to win. The fans are alienated. They're upset. That's what you're dealing with here.''

It’s one thing to do a teardown and rebuild with management that knows what it’s doing. The Cubs did it. The Astros did it. The Marlins show no sign that they have those kinds of people in place.

Best of luck, Derek Jeter. You’re going to need it.