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Rob Manfred apparently thinks that baseball is too boring

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Thursday’s Say Hey, Baseball features the commissioner dumping on his own sport, Bryce Harper ending his home run drought in style, and nightmare bobbleheads.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

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Commissioner Rob Manfred filled in for the vacationing Buster Olney on ESPN.com this week, and he decided to write about baseball and change. It’s a popular topic, considering Olney wrote about nine ways he’d make baseball better last month, and he brought Manfred on the Mike & Mike radio show to talk about it. Manfred wasn’t a fan of some of Olney’s ideas, but in his ESPN piece, he made sure to say that he’s not afraid of change. In fact, he essentially views his job as baseball’s change manager, trying to keep the future in balance with the game that fans grew up loving.

But his description of a few things makes it clear what Manfred thinks of them. He spends a paragraph talking about the increased length of games (a full 30 minutes longer on average than in 1975), and it’s clear he views pitchers and hitting strategy as the main culprit. It now takes 294 pitches to complete the same game that could be completed in 272 pitches in 1988. As if it’s 22 pitches that’s adding the 30 minutes to the game and not the commercial breaks. He mentions the increased use of pitchers and pitching changes, and how that denies fans the chance to see star pitchers while sucking excitement from the game. (Something that also denies fans the chance to see star pitchers? Injuries from pitching too much.)

Manfred even talks about the decline of stolen bases and situational hitting as other excitement-sucking elements. "These changes have occurred not due to new rules but almost exclusively because of decisions made by creative general managers and managers in an effort to win as many games as possible." You can almost hear his eyes rolling at "creative general managers." It’s clear that Manfred doesn’t like some of these organic changes to the game, ones that he didn’t introduce and therefore can’t control as well. But he’s almost missing the point that he himself made: it’s all in service of winning more games. The goal of every team at the start of the season is to get to (and win) the World Series. Baseball is an entertainment product, but to the people who run teams and play the game, it’s their life and livelihood. If Manfred truly wants to be baseball’s change manager, he might want to recognize and reconcile other points of view on baseball’s changes instead of criticizing them for not being exciting enough.