It's easy to blame the most visible figure in the middle of any crisis. That said, I'm not sure anyone is more to blame for the current, sorry state of Major League Baseball than commissioner Rob Manfred.
Manfred has overseen several massive disasters since becoming commissioner in 2015, none bigger than the present lockout. But the current labor strife isn't new, it's been bubbling for years and went to a full-on boil during the buildup to the COVID-shortened 2020 season.
As the owners and players attempted to work out a deal to actually play baseball, Manfred only fanned the flames of conflict. He allowed the owners to continually put forward insulting offers for a longer season when he planned to have a 60-game campaign all along. The animosity created by those contentious negotiations made labor unrest inevitable this winter.
Now we're past the point when spring training should have started and the owners and players are nowhere near a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement. The two sides aren't even on the same planet when it comes to what they want. This work could have been done a year ago, but Manfred allowed it to get to this point by refusing to step up and show leadership.
During his time, Manfred has screwed up repeatedly. He botched the punishment phase of both the Houston Astros' and Boston Red Sox' sign-stealing scandals. He attempted to sidestep discussing the Atlanta Braves name controversy by claiming baseball was solely a regional game, then claimed the Native American community of the region was "wholly supportive" of the Braves and "the chop." Hint: that's not true. He's claimed being an MLB owner isn't a lucrative proposition. Oh, and he oversaw a league that clearly had no plan to deal with rampant COVID-19 outbreaks during the 2020 season.
His tenure as commissioner has been one embarrassment after another, the lockout is just the cherry on top of this sh*t sundae. There is no end in sight for this ridiculous string of missteps, either, because Manfred isn't going anywhere.
MLB currently has a once in a lifetime crop of young players and an increasingly exciting product to sell. And the league is currently staring down the barrel of the second shortened season in three years. There is plenty of blame to go around for that, but the man at the center of all that badness is Rob Manfred.
Baseball's current commissioner has done tremendous harm to the game he oversees. And he's not done yet.