Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred endorses Bryce Harper’s campaign to bring more flair to the sport.
Harper caused a stir during spring training, especially among the game’s old guard, when he told an ESPN reporter that baseball was a “tired sport, because you can’t express yourself.” Hall of Fame pitcher Goose Gossage, for one, responded to Harper’s comments with disgust, telling Chicago’s ESPN 1000 in March that Harper “doesn’t know squat about the game, and [has] no respect for it.”
Sorry, Goose, Manfred essentially said Thursday during a meeting with the Associated Press Sports Editors, the unwritten rules of baseball are changing. Deal with it.
“Whether I want it this way or don’t want it this way, the fact of the matter is the players are going to define, themselves, those unwritten rules,” Manfred said. “You can’t legislate that. This generation of players is going to define what’s acceptable and unacceptable. I think to the extent that you believe, and I actually kind of do, that Bryce Harper is a spokesman for this generation, I suspect that you will see more exuberance from our players on the field. I think it’s a good thing. I think that to the extent that you’re trying to market to a younger audience, our younger players taking control of the definition of those unwritten rules is a lot better than some guy who is 67 years old saying, ‘I did it that way and you ought to do it the same way.’”
Later, Manfred was asked if the media made too much of Harper’s comments.
“If you take Bryce’s comments, do I wish there were a couple of words that I could edit? Yes, I do,” he said. “‘Tired,’ for example, would be one. But I actually believe that a player of his stature starting a dialogue about what the sport’s going to look like — and I think that dialogue really involves mostly his peers, players on the field — will produce a positive result for the game. They’re young, they see the world different. My kids see the world different than I do, and I do think if we want young people to take the game forward, we have to be tolerant of that dialogue while things change. … It’s sort of like the designated hitter. People have strong views, they express them strongly, but they’re out there talking about the game and amen, good for us. I think this is sort of in the same category. The game is important enough to people that if both the press and the fans seize on this topic and they’re passionate about it? Great.”
Harper addressed Manfred’s comments after Thursday’s game.
“I appreciate the words from Mr. Manfred, of course,” he said. “But I think having the generation of talent that we do right now — whether it’s Machado or Trout or Harvey or DeGrom — it’s a great time for baseball, great time for the fans. But also, you have to understand that you have to respect the guys that came before you as well. It’s still a game where it’s evolving into what it needs to be. We’re gonna have a lot of fun with it hopefully over the next 20 years and push the envelope and hopefully make some things happen and do some things that are definitely different.”