Rob Manfred, MLB commissioner, has received a four-year contract extension that will keep him at the top of MLB’s organizational chart until Jan. 2029.
“It is an honor to serve the best game in the world and to continue the pursuit of strengthening our sport on and off the field,” Manfred said in a statement released by MLB. “This season our players are displaying the most vibrant version of our game, and sports fans are responding in a manner that is great for Major League Baseball’s future. Together, all of usin the game will work toward presenting our sport at its finest and broadening its reach and impact for our loyal fans.”
Seattle Mariners owner John Stanton chaired the meeting that approved the extension, and praised Manfred for essentially being the savior of baseball at this “critical time in history.”
“Under his leadership, we have been responsive to fans’ desire for more action and better pace, continued the game’s spirit of innovation, expanded MLB’s role in youth baseball and softball, and beyond,” Stanton said. “The significant momentum that MLB has built reflects his ongoing initiatives that are advancing the game.”
Manfred, 64, succeeded Bud Selig as commissioner in 2015. Since then he’s relentlessly tinkered with the game, with his main hobby horse being pace of play and time of play. Less than two months after taking over, he established clocks that count down during commercial breaks, and required umpires to enforce the batters box rule. In 2018 he limited the number of mound visits per game and reduced time for commercials between innings.
None of that really made a difference in game times, but the rules he put in pace prior to the 2023 season did the trick. The most important one has been the pitch clock, which reduces the time between pitches and has resulted in a huge reduction in overall game time. For the first time since 2010, the average game time is now under three hours (approximately two hours and 40 minutes), a reduction of nearly 30 minutes from the last few years.
Commissioners are never the most popular figures in their sport, but few of them have ever been accused of not liking the sport they’re in charge of. Not so for Manfred, who has been accused of not liking baseball since he took over. (His commitment to reducing average game length hasn’t helped.) He’s also been heavily criticized for his handling of the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal (all players involved received immunity and were not punished), and for his dealings with the players and the press during the 2021-2022 MLB lockout.
Manfred’s reelection was originally reported last week, but even before that his extension isn’t much of a surprise. Despite the criticism, he’s helped team owners make a lot of money and this season has overseen a massive surge in live game attendance, which has now returned to pre-pandemic levels.