As baseball seems headed for disaster, where is its invisible commissioner?

Dwight Jaynes
NBC Sports Northwest

As professional basketball and hockey prepare to finish their seasons and pro football gets ready to start a new one, Major League Baseball continues to haggle its way toward a totally lost year.

How does a sport that generates about $10 billion a year not find a way to pick up the pieces of a season and salvage not only some of that money, but hold onto its place among what used to be called sports' "Big Three" -- baseball, football and basketball?

Well, answering that question requires me to ask a question, which is, who is the commissioner of baseball?

And I'm thinking that if you asked the average sports fan on the street today that question, he probably couldn't tell you.

Most people know Roger Goodell (NFL) and Adam Silver (NBA). Some could even tell you that Gary Bettman is the commissioner of the NHL. But how many, without looking it up, could name Rob Manfred as the invisible man who serves as the commissioner of baseball?

Manfred has all but disappeared during the squabble between baseball's owners and players over the terms of MLB's truncated season. How else could ESPN's Jeff Passan, who has been a leader in reporting on the situation, have written almost 50 paragraphs, some of them long ones, on the finances of the dispute recently and not once even mentioned Manfred's name?

Could you imagine that much being written about a labor dispute in football or basketball without mention of a commissioner?

And for me, it speaks to a lack of leadership. Yes, I understand Manfred works for the owners and not the players. But all commissioners do that. Some of them, though, manage to convince the players -- and fans -- that they do their job with the best interests of the game at heart.

Manfred has allowed negotiations between players and owners to become a public hissing match. Voices on both sides make statements that do nothing to push a solution forward. And while mediation or even arbitration seems necessary, you hear nothing from him or about him.

I don't understand why baseball hasn't solved its problems but I have an even more difficult time figuring out why it can't keep its labor-management issues to itself.

This is a time of massive unemployment, a devastating health crisis and rampant civil unrest. It's no time for any business to make its public face that of billionaires fighting millionaires.

But that's baseball right now -- showcasing its unseemly differences of opinion, rather than focusing on solutions to them.

And as far as I can tell, one solution might be to locate Rob Manfred. Or locate a replacement for him.

As baseball seems headed for disaster, where is its invisible commissioner? originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest

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