News item, via Andrew Marchand at the New York Post:
MLB Network has cut ties with insider Ken Rosenthal that is believed to be the end result of acrimony that peaked in the summer of 2020 after Rosenthal criticized commissioner Rob Manfred, The Post has learned.
Rosenthal, a top news breaker, was first kept off the air for around three months, according to sources, after he wrote columns in 2020 — with the season in jeopardy due to the pandemic — analyzing Manfred’s handling of the situation for The Athletic.
Presuming all of this is true — and while some don’t consider the New York Post to be a good baseball source, Marchand is a generally reliable reporter on sports media issues — it’s another extremely petty move by the commissioner of baseball.
It is true that MLB Network is owned by the league and as such, is somewhat of a “house organ.” But this... Here, Craig Calcaterra sums things up quite well:
There are many differences between Bud Selig and Manfred. But what truly separates Manfred from his predecessor is the culture of reality creation he has imposed. MLB under Manfred simply believes that criticism is illegitimate and that questioning its decisions is illegitimate.— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) January 3, 2022
And let’s be clear here: Ken is an excellent journalist, but he is not out there lighting people up or anything. If you can’t handle even his polite, moderate and cogent criticism you are softer than light cream cheese.— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) January 4, 2022
Craig is correct. If Rob Manfred wanted to show everyone an example of how thin-skinned he is, he accomplished his goal. According to the New York Post article, it appears Rosenthal’s disappearance from MLB Network in the summer of 2020 happened after some extremely mild criticism of Manfred appeared at The Athletic:
In June 2020, Rosenthal’s analysis of Manfred for The Athletic featured some light criticism, but it didn’t appear to delve into anything personal.
In one piece, Rosenthal wrote, “As if the perception that Manfred is beholden to owners and out of touch with players was not bad enough, he was trending on Twitter on Monday after performing a massive flip-flop.”
That quote is 100 percent accurate. That’s exactly what the perception of Manfred was at the time, and still is.
Here’s what one MLB player had to say about all this on Twitter:
My SB Nation colleague Brandon Day, manager of our Tigers site Bless You Boys, also summed this up quite well:
It’s kind of amazing. Maybe he underestimated Ken’s popularity, but the owners have locked out the players. Everyone is frustrated and hungry for something to happen. There’s literally nothing going on. And into this void you decide to take some cheap revenge on one of the most respected and liked media members in the game over some mild criticism? This is the only story in the news, and there’s little sign of anything likely to replace it coming down the pipe. Spectacularly bad timing, on top of everything.
Everything about this is “spectacularly bad” — beyond the timing, the pettiness of it is just utterly astonishing. But given the apparently petty move last month of removing current player images (and video) from MLB.com and not mentioning current players at all, I suppose this isn’t really surprising at all.
Things like this just confirm my belief that Manfred doesn’t appear to have any idea what baseball fans want and desire surrounding the sport. The lockout has already alienated many fans and not a single game has been cancelled as a result — yet. Things like this situation with Rosenthal only reinforce the idea that Manfred doesn’t care about baseball’s fans — you know, its customers — beyond how much money he can help teams suck out of their wallets. This is dangerous ground.
Rosenthal will be fine. Let’s make it clear: He wasn’t “fired” per se; his contract was up and simply was not renewed. His work will continue at The Athletic, and he’ll remain a commentator on baseball for Fox Sports. As you might expect from Rosenthal, he issued a statement on Twitter that was all class:
Can confirm MLB Network has decided not to bring me back. I’m grateful for the more than 12 years I spent there, and my enduring friendships with on-air personalities, producers and staff. I always strove to maintain my journalistic integrity, and my work reflects that. 1/2— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 4, 2022
Nothing else is changing for me professionally. I am proud to remain part of the great teams at The Athletic and Fox Sports. 2/2— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 4, 2022
“Class,” though? That certainly doesn’t describe Rob Manfred. Presuming all this is true, this move has diminished the sport’s image, and regardless of whether Manfred specifically ordered this MLB Network move or not, his fingerprints appear to be all over it.