Ken Rosenthal Won't Be Brought Back by MLB Network After Criticism of Rob Manfred

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 3, 2022

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 27: Fox Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal looks on in Game Five of the 2019 World Series at Nationals Park on October 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

MLB Network severed its relationship with veteran insider Ken Rosenthal in part because of his past criticism toward MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, according to the New York Post's Andrew Marchand.

"Rosenthal, a top news breaker, was first kept off the air for around three months, according to sources, after he wrote columns in 2020—with the season in jeopardy due to the pandemic—analyzing Manfred's handling of the situation for The Athletic," per Marchand.

Rosenthal confirmed the network's decision via social media:

Ken Rosenthal @Ken_Rosenthal

Can confirm MLB Network has decided not to bring me back. I’m grateful for the more than 12 years I spent there, and my enduring friendships with on-air personalities, producers and staff. I always strove to maintain my journalistic integrity, and my work reflects that. 1/2

Ken Rosenthal @Ken_Rosenthal

Nothing else is changing for me professionally. I am proud to remain part of the great teams at The Athletic and Fox Sports. 2/2

Marchand shared a statement from an MLB spokesman:

"As MLB Network continues to look at fresh ways to bring baseball to our viewers, there is a natural turnover in our talent roster that takes place each year. Ken played a significant part at MLB Network over the last 13 years. From spring training to the winter meetings, we thank him for his work across MLB Network's studio, game and event programming, and wish him the very best going forward."

In the piece cited by Marchand, Rosenthal wrote in June 2020 how Manfred needed to reach an agreement with the MLB Players Association over an amended 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He also made some pointed remarks about the commissioner.

"He and the owners, supposed stewards of the game, are turning the national pastime into a national punch line, effectively threatening to take their ball and go home while the country struggles with medical, economic and societal concerns," Rosenthal said.

The longtime reporter also argued how the "best commissioners offer statesmanlike presence and superior vision."

"Few ascribe those qualities to Manfred, and few would argue baseball is in a better place since he took over for Selig on Aug. 14, 2014," he said.

Although MLB has a stake in its own network, one would expect there to be a bit of a firewall that allows contributors to make well-reasoned, constructive critiques about Manfred or any other employee of the league or a team.

Rosenthal's comments about Manfred didn't seem to cross the line.

The commissioner isn't exactly a popular figure among fans, and MLB as a whole is facing a number of important issues that either predate Manfred's tenure or rose to the fore under his watch. The solutions to those problems will have long-term consequences for the sport.

The timing of Rosenthal's departure is also a bit quizzical as MLB and the players' union attempt to broker a deal over a new collective bargaining agreement.

Winning the public relations battle is always a goal in CBA negotiations, especially when a lockout has brought league business to a standstill. Removing a respected voice such as Rosenthal from MLB Network probably won't sit well with those who follow the game.