Ken Rosenthal is widely regarded as one of the league’s most accurate reporters, but we learned today that MLB Network has cut ties with Rosenthal due to his criticism of commissioner Rob Manfred. Rosenthal is a contributor to The Athletic and FOX Sports, so it’s no surprise that he’s written about Manfred before. As with most Manfred talk, however, it wasn’t praise. Major League Baseball, which is currently in a lockout, has had a number of issues recently that have damaged its image. Manfred, a commissioner, has found himself in the center of them: the COVID outbreaks, Astros scandal, and juiced balls, just to name a few. There’s a large distrust of Manfred among the media and players, and firing Ken Rosenthal isn’t going to make it better.
Playing the Blame Game
I don’t blame MLB Network in particular for firing Rosenthal, it’s not a hill worth dying on for the company. They either fire Rosenthal, or they further escalate things with Manfred. The one to blame is Rob Manfred, who has shown time and time again to be inept. This isn’t even the first run-in with Ken Rosenthal, as MLB Network kept Rosenthal off the air for about three months due to his criticism of how Manfred handled the negotiations between the MLBPA and the owners in the months leading up to the 2020 COVID season, per Andrew Marchand of the New York Post. When fans are desperate for baseball news and content, and there’s a work stoppage preventing such a thing, it lies on the commissioner of baseball to right that wrong; and he hasn’t.
We’ve seen Manfred’s ineffectiveness to make any sort of decision that makes sense. Whether it’s lying about the baseballs used or the inability to prevent this lockout, Manfred is everything he doesn’t want to hear. If he doesn’t want people to criticize him so much, he should either step down or do better.
While Manfred is the one to blame, MLB Network finds itself involved with another messy firing.
Déjà Vu For MLB Network
The firing of Ken Rosenthal isn’t too different than the firing of Chris Rose. He was featured on Intentional Talk with Kevin Millar, and after he was inexplicably let go, he landed a job with Jomboy Media and now runs a very successful podcast in the Chris Rose Rotation. Sure, maybe they wanted to get a new voice on that show, but why just let go of Rose? It blew up in their face, and they’ve fallen further behind in the MLB content race. With the emergence of podcasts and YouTube, MLB Network just cannot to keep making these boneheaded firings. This loops back to MLB and Rob Manfred, since their inability to properly market the sport has been a nightmare as well.
When you fire good content creators and fire people who badmouth Manfred, you drive people away. Quite frankly, it might be the only thing Major League Baseball truly does well.
MLB and Rob Manfred Worsen Their Image Problem
Ultimately, Ken Rosenthal being fired isn’t going to change what Ken Rosenthal does. He has a job with The Athletic and a job with FOX Sports, you’ll see him plenty. That being said, by driving people out of MLB Network and onto other platforms, it makes MLB Network more obsolete, defeating the purpose of the network. Whether they realize it or not, this is the negative press that continues to worsen Manfred’s image. Sure, Rosenthal criticizing the commissioner on the Network itself may not be appropriate, but handle that internally. It’s too late to undo that. The cat’s out of the bag, and people reading about Rosenthal’s firing think less of Manfred today than they though they could before.
No baseball, more negative Manfred press, and unhappy players. Welcome to Major League Baseball in 2022.