By Barry Janoff
January 26, 2015: Robert Manfred, who this week took over from Bud Selig as the 10th commissioner in Major League Baseball history, has a message for fans, players and marketing partners: The more things change, the more they stay the same. And it's all good for MLB growth.
Manfred, formerly COO for MLB, officially moved into the job on Sunday as Selig moved out after 15 1/2 seasons as commissioner (July 1998-2014) and another six and a half as acting commissioner (1992-July 1998).
There have been other changes in the executive hierarchy that will impact finances, marketing, media and MLB activations with the restructuring of MLB advance Media and MLB Network. That includes the departure at the end of the month of Tim Brosnan, who joined the league's office in 1991 and since 2000 has been evp-business; and MLB giving more authority to Bob Bowman, president and CEO for MLBAM and now MLB's president for business affairs and media.
As the league and its marketing partners plan for the 2015 season, with Spring Training to open in February, Manfred took time to share in an open letter to fans and others his visions.
"On the night of August 14, 2014, I left a Baltimore hotel after being elected Commissioner of Baseball. As I began to reply to the overwhelming number of congratulatory messages coming in, it hit me that I'd just been entrusted to protect the integrity of our National Pastime and to set a course that allows this great game to continue to flourish — now and in the years to come. Needless to say, I was deeply honored by the trust the owners placed in me.
"Today is my first day as Commissioner, and I am incredibly excited to get to work. I am grateful to Commissioner Selig for his expertise and friendship. His leadership set a direction that led to historic success."
According to Manfred, "The mission before us is clear: To honor the game's history while welcoming new people to our great sport — people who will one day pass their love of baseball down through the generations. That is what our parents and grandparents did for us, and it is what we are doing for our own children. Baseball is a game firmly rooted in childhood experiences, and its vitality and growth rely heavily on giving young people from all backgrounds the opportunity to play and watch baseball."
In his open letter, Manfred said he would bring the game closer to kids and, in turn, build for the long-term future of the sport.
"This notion that baseball is the game of children is central to my core goals as Commissioner," he wrote. "Maybe that is because my own Little League experience in upstate Rome, New York, was such an important part of my childhood. I will never forget my intense dedication to that club and to my teammates — each of whom I can still name to this day — and being part of a perfect game."
Beyond kids, Manfred said that his top priority is to "bring more people into our game — at all levels and from all communities," something that marketers keen on targeting baseball-oriented demographics certainly want to hear.
According to a recently released Harris Poll from Harris Interactive, pro football is the favorite sport of Americans by a 2-1 margin. Although the NFL has held the No. 1 spot over No. 2 MLB for every Harris Poll dating back to 1985, football's lead over baseball was as high as 23% in 2011 and 21% in 2013.
For Manfred, reaching new fans includes making baseball "more accessible to those in underserved areas, especially in the urban areas where fields and infrastructure are harder to find. Giving more kids the opportunity to play will inspire a new generation to fall in love with baseball just as we did when we were kids. Expanding Little League, RBI and other youth baseball programs will also help sustain a steady and wide talent pool from which our clubs can draw great players and create lifelong fans."
Another priority, according to Manfred is to continue to "modernize the game without interfering with its history and traditions. Last season's expanded instant replay improved the game's quality and addressed concerns shared by fans and players. We made a dramatic change without altering the game's fundamentals. I look forward to tapping into the power of technology to consider additional advancements that will continue to heighten the excitement of the game, improve the pace of play and attract more young people to the game."
"I look forward to tapping into the power of technology to consider additional advancements that will continue to heighten the excitement of the game."
Despite such issues as PEDs and other personal challenges facing players, Manfred said that the current crop of MLB stars is worthy of emulating.
"Our children can look at MLB today and find a wave of new stars worthy of emulating both on and off the field. Players like Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Trout and aces Madison Bumgarner, Felix Hernandez and Clayton Kershaw have powerful stories to tell — and MLB will tell them across every platform. We will continue to internationalize our game and to celebrate the fact that we have the most diverse rosters in the world.
"Our mission is to build upon this recent success by creating opportunities for the next wave of baseball talent. We also must continue to nurture inclusive environments for all the contributors to our game and our loyal fans."
Back to Home Page