By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s not often that an All-Star athlete sits down to record a video specifically to rip the commissioner of his sports league and send it out to the world. It’s also not often that an All-Star athlete like Trevor Bauer comes along.
Bauer has gained a notable reputation for being extraordinarily online over the past few years, often engaging in never-ending Twitter beefs and occasionally going too far. Multiple times he has become a human meme, like when he had to leave a playoff start due to excessive bleeding on his pitching hand from an injury suffered while tinkering with his drone, or when he stood behind the mound and chucked a baseball over the center field fence in frustration last summer.
Clearly, Bauer is a little different. It should come as no surprise that if any baseball player was going to sit in front of a white background specifically to rant against MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, it would be Bauer.
In a video for Momentum (a venture co-founded by Bauer), the pitcher used his popular tweet from Monday as a springboard to sit down and rail against Manfred for his failure to understand media, his failure to connect with the younger generation of potential fans, and much more.
Inspired by the leaked potential playoff changes, Bauer revved himself up by pointing out what he considered to be obvious flaws. Then the direction turned toward Manfred personally.
“I just am so beside myself with Rob Manfred and his ridiculous rule changes that he keeps proposing,” Bauer said. “We’re going to move the mound back two feet, we’re going to have a three-batter minimum, we’re gonna, oh, get the games under three hours because that’s what fans want. Fans don’t care if the games are two hours and 57 minutes or three hours.”
He added: “You should probably know something about media. You should probably understand what people are connecting with. Since those are the people that voted you in as commissioner, you should probably understand something about media.”
Bauer said unlike the NBA, which connects extremely well with younger fans via social media, MLB still lives in the dark ages in terms of allowing content to be posted and shared online.
“[Fans] can’t even go to Twitter, where all the young people hang out. You can’t even go to social media and see anything about the game,” Bauer said. “Steph Curry throws a bounce pass in an NBA game, and it’s trending with 1.5 million views five minutes later. And Mike Trout goes and launches himself and robs a homer or something, and you can’t find the highlight anywhere online. It’s ridiculous.”
Bauer took aim at MLB Advanced Media — or BAM — as being a short-sighted business venture where MLB remains in control of all online content.
“Great, you made a lot of money up front, but you centralized all this content and you made people pay for it, you know what you get? You get a missing generation of fans,” Bauer said. “You make some money up front, great. And you miss a generation of fans, and the game is losing popularity, especially among young people.”
Bauer also expressed frustration at the fact that many people in the Los Angeles area have been unable to watch Dodgers games for years, due to a cable deal.
“Rob, if you understood media, maybe as the commissioner of baseball, you could solve some of these things. Like how in one of your biggest markets, half the fans can’t even watch the damn game because of TV deals,” Bauer said. “How are we supposed to spread the game, how are we supposed to get people interested — young people, the missing generation of baseball fans — how are we supposed to get them interested in the game when they can’t even see the damn game?”
Bauer also said that MLB fails to allow players to express themselves, specifically noting the time MLB enforced what Bauer referred to as “a stupid cleat policy” against Mike Clevinger, who had the audacity to wear cleats with flowers on them during a game.
“I mean, what does it even matter?! Just let the players express themselves! Let them have some personality. You wanna market the game? Don’t change it. Don’t make the mound 62 feet. Don’t make playoffs where you have to pick your opponent and frickin whatever. Don’t change the game. Market the players,” Bauer urged. “You have more players in baseball than any other league, which much more diverse backgrounds worldwide, more so than any of the other major American sports. And it’s the least marketable. It’s because you make stupid decisions about how you market the players.”
Certainly, insisting that the commissioner does not understand the media industry while also plainly stating that the commissioner makes “stupid decisions” is sure to get Manfred’s attention. Nevertheless, Bauer pressed further.
“You don’t open it up. Let content go, get it out there. Quit with the stupid cleat policy, the stupid BAM policy, blackouts all over the place — and that’s just dealing with content that we already have available. Like, where’s the innovation in content? Where’s the next thing that’s going to draw fans in? Who’s innovating? Who’s creating something new? Who’s trying to identify with the young fans?” Bauer asked. “Instead we’re going to have a game, if the game is three hours and one minute, no good. But two hours and 59 [minutes] is good, and that’s going to make it more appealing. Move the mound back. Or three-batter minimum. Whatever else other stupid ideas are coming out. I don’t know.”
Just to drive the point home, Bauer closed his rant by sending one more message directly to Manfred.
“So, Rob, if you’re watching this video, — you probably won’t, because you don’t even have a pulse on the game that you’re commissioner of,” Bauer said. “But if you’re watching this video and you wanna talk about some stuff, you want some recommendations, hit me up. I’m sure you can get in contact with me. I’m sure you’ll probably be fining me or something like that. So that’s it. That’s all I got to say. Frickin … ”
Manfred is currently still trying to wrap up his investigation of the Red Sox. Meanwhile, as new reporting emerges about the Astros, his Houston investigation appears to have had some holes. He and the league have expressed a desire to implement and enforce new policies regarding the use of video during games, in an effort to curb players’ use of video to try to decode sign sequences during games. It’s a whole significant matter that’s seemingly taken priority for Manfred this offseason.
But now, Manfred has this to deal with. And if he knows anything about Bauer’s history, he should know that this won’t be a one-time thing. A philosophical battle with the sport’s most outspoken player is probably not something Manfred is eager add to his list of duties. But Bauer’s video was so direct, so blunt, and so personal that the commissioner will ultimately have no choice but to address it.
It’s almost as if … Bauer has proven … that social media can be used … to generate loads of attention … for a sport that desperately needs it. Interesting.