Rob Manfred
Commissioner | Major League Baseball

AP Photo

Rob Manfred has his share of skeptics, like all commissioners across the big leagues.

In some ways, serving as commissioner of any sport is a thankless position, working for billionaire team owners sporting massive egos, although the pay is certainly good.

For Manfred, the 2023 season has been fraught with disruptions, with multiple clubs searching for sweetheart deals to build new ballparks in other markets, topped by the Oakland A’s and their ongoing saga to build a stadium in Las Vegas.

A’s fans, among the most fervent and loyal in MLB, have been slung through the mud in what’s become an ugly situation in the East Bay, trying to replace the decaying Oakland Coliseum that opened in 1966.

Manfred’s comments at times have done nothing but inflame their anger at a team they feel never really committed to staying in Oakland — years after watching both the Raiders and Warriors leave town.

In addition, the Milwaukee Brewers and, in a surprise move, the Chicago White Sox, have both reportedly considered potentially moving elsewhere should they complete deals to build new venues.

Both cases add to greater angst against Manfred, whose solemn duty is to support his employers.

But there’s one thing this season that pushed VenuesNow to crown Manfred with All-Star status — the pitch clock. To create a quicker pace of play, MLB implemented new rules that include a 15-second timer between pitches when runners are on base and a 20-second timer with runners on base.

Lo and behold, it’s worked with some games shortened by more than 30 minutes over the course of the season.

Meanwhile, as of mid-August, MLB attendance was up by 9.2% over last season. If that number stands, it would be the biggest increase since 1998, when the expansion Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks began play.

It’s difficult to say whether shorter games are pushing more fans through the turnstiles, but it’s not out of the question. Quicker pace of play and other slight rule modifications have seen more stolen bases and Instagrammable highlights, which seem to be driving further fan engagement and increasing star power for upstart talents like Cincinnati Reds speedster Elly de la Cruz.

It was Manfred who pushed the new rules forward and it took some guts to do it, as well as implementing the designated-hitter rule across all of MLB, which many said would never fly with hardball purists.

Even Manfred’s harshest critics can agree the pitch clock was the right move. — Don Muret

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