Hear me out: Derek Jeter for MLB Commissioner

Hear me out: Derek Jeter for MLB Commissioner

Yes, Derek Jeter should be the next commissioner of baseball.
Image: Getty Images

We’re going to be without big league baseball for the foreseeable future, launching a sport that’s already been on the decline into what feels like its death throes.

In some ways it is. When MLB comes back, the playoffs will involve at least 12 teams, and the summer drama that was once so thrilling before the wild card will officially turn into little more than a six-month confirmation of what everyone knows at the start of spring training, with room for one or two surprise teams to make their way into the postseason.

That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and as Deadspin’s Sam Fels wrote on Wednesday morning, “Even the NHL, after they blew up the league in 2005, came back with rule changes and other things to make for a more exciting product. That’s what baseball needs. Steer into the skid until we hit the ravine. It’s the only way.”

When this lockout ends, Rob Manfred has gotta go. It’s not just because he’s wound up being a worse commissioner than the inimitable Bud Selig, who at least liked baseball, but because he’s become toxic. The workforce will never trust him, the public is repulsed by him, and his bosses can’t even point to a Seligian record of labor peace and continued growth as a reason to keep him around.

What MLB owners need is a commissioner who does what the public views as a commissioner’s job. The actual job has become what Manfred does, lawyering, but people still see the position as a steward of the sport, a person leading the way with some measure of impartiality, even though they’re paid by the owners. Roger Goodell and Adam Silver succeed at this, even though they’re clearly the owners’ men, with their demonstrable passion for their sports. Manfred, like Gary Bettman, is irrevocably viewed as loving money more than the game — whether or not it’s true doesn’t matter, the die is cast in public opinion.

When the lockout is over, MLB needs a public-facing leader who can get the message across, whether it’s true or not, that the league’s priority is back to baseball, not sucking every last available cent out of it. They need someone whom the players will respect, whom the fans will accept, and who can represent the establishment while seeming cool about it.

Major League Baseball needs Derek Jeter.

After leaving his role as CEO of the Marlins, Jeter is available. That time in Miami gives him strong ties to management, and obviously everyone knows what he did as a player. When Jeter, rather than Manfred, is the person rolling out ideas like pitch clocks, it will be a lot more palatable to those who are resistant to the change.

What Jeter can’t do is the heavy labor lifting that Manfred has done and that got him to where he is today. And it’s that part of the job that needs to be out of the commissioner’s role. MLB can promote Dan Halem from deputy commissioner to CEO and have him and Morgan Sword continue their quest to maximize every possible revenue stream. Let the commissioner stay clear of that, and in so doing, keep the relationship between commissioner and players on solid ground.

But why would Jeter want such a job, when he can comfortably retire to his millions of dollars? It’s a role that can and should be designed to make Jeter look good, because it’s a role that can and should be designed to get the focus of baseball back on baseball. And if he played it right, Jeter could be able to go down as not only a Hall of Famer, but the man who, in the public eye, saved baseball. And all while Alex Rodriguez was just the part-owner of a second-rate basketball team.

We need to accept that MLB isn’t going to do the things that it needs to do for the right reasons of what’s best for the sport, but convincing Jeter to be commissioner once a labor deal is reached is in the best interest of relaunching their business. And not to worry, as popular as Jeter might prove to be at it, he won’t ruin the tradition of commissioners getting booed by crowds – at least whenever he goes to Fenway Park.

Original source here

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.