Rob Manfred Gifted Each MLB Player Bose Headphones and Wrote a Letter of Appreciation

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 10, 2022

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred holds a news conference after baseball players and owners voted to approve a new labor agreement, Thursday March 10, 2022, in New York. “I am genuinely thrilled to say Major League Baseball is back and we're going to play 162 games,” Manfred said. “I want to start by apologizing to our fans. I know the last few months have been difficult.” (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred attempted to extend a bit of an olive branch to players by gifting them a pair of headphones, according to The Athletic's Stephen J. Nesbitt.

Nesbitt also shared a letter from Manfred in which he thanked players "for everything you do in a game that has such a rich history and deep meaning to our fans in the U.S. and around the world."

Stephen J. Nesbitt @stephenjnesbitt

Rob Manfred has said he needs to repair his relationship with MLB players following the lockout. Here’s a small gesture from Opening Day. Each player had a gift box waiting at their locker with Bose headphones and this “note of appreciation” from Manfred inside. <a href="https://t.co/kxHnGcoaQT">pic.twitter.com/kxHnGcoaQT</a>

At best, this gesture does nothing to meaningfully address the issues players laid out during the most recent collective bargaining agreement negotiations. At worst, it's a cynical tactic that displays a fundamental inability to grasp the dynamic between labor and management.

There's no question that Manfred was an unpopular figure among players and fans when the CBA process dragged on and on.

Any commissioner is bound to generate some mistrust and acrimony because he or she is ultimately an avatar and representative for team owners.

Even with that aspect in mind, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal argued Manfred "displays a knack for saying the wrong things in public settings, offending players and fans."

"Manfred needs to be a better leader, not only in driving new revenue streams for the owners, but also in setting a better tone for his sport," Rosenthal wrote.

And while CBA negotiations can threaten to be very divisive, the battle over a new CBA in MLB felt especially thorny. Not only did the owners lock the players out, but they also failed to begin tackling the serious issues until the calendar turned over to 2022.

David O'Brien of The Athletic said one player had reached out to say the owners "don’t want to just win they want to kill their own product." 

There's no question Manfred has a lot of work ahead if he truly does want to rebuild his relationship with the players. A typewritten note and a piece of electronics won't get it done.

If nothing else, the headphones are a great way to tune out the commissioner the next time he says something he has to walk back later.