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Firing Ken Rosenthal Is Another Reason For Fans Not To Trust Rob Manfred

“Nobody said these jobs were supposed to be easy. You aren’t going to please everyone, but why make matters worse?”

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Some people just can’t take the heat and instead turn to throwing people out of the kitchen. They aren’t capable of rolling with the punches, even when the criticism coming their way is warranted and documented.

In the case of Rob Manfred v. Ken Rosenthal, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball acted rashly in the face of a not-so vicious attack. Instead of just turning the other cheek, or looking in the mirror, Manfred decided the league-owned MLB Network needed to fire a long-time, credible and respected journalist. Rosenthal confirmed the news via his Twitter account. He also indicated that he is still employed by Fox Sports and will continue to report on the sport for that network.

Commissioners of the “Big 4 Sports Leagues” are supposed to have thick skin. Criticism, skepticism, and whatever other ism’s you can think of, come with the job. Generally speaking, these commissioners make big bucks and in the eyes of fans, never have their collective backs. 

Nobody said these jobs were supposed to be easy. You aren’t going to please everyone, but why make matters worse? 

Rosenthal was relieved of his ‘insider’ duties at MLB Network Monday. It was revealed by the New York Post that Rosenthal’s article posted to the The Athletic led to a double secret probation of a few months and ultimately his termination. The article, posted June 16, 2020, was critical of Manfred and his handling of the start of the pandemic plagued 2020 baseball season. On the surface, the so-called attack was mild in nature and was filled with truths. Manfred waffled back and forth about the length of a season and then having no season. It led Rosenthal to lines like these from his posted column.

  • “As if the perception that Manfred is beholden to owners and out of touch with players was not bad enough, he was trending on Twitter on Monday after performing a massive flip-flop.” 
  • “Granted, the commissioner is forever in a tricky spot, empowered to act in the best interests of the game, but employed by the owners. Still, how does Manfred in a span of five days go from telling ESPN the season “unequivocally” would take place to saying on the same network he was “not confident” it would happen?”
  • “Yet for a guy who suddenly is looking for peace, Manfred sure has a funny way of showing it.”
  • “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.”
  • “If he blows this, it will define him. That should be enough incentive for him to strike a deal, period.”

I guess the truth hurts. Especially the last line. Was the commentary out of line? Nope. Was the commentary a personal attack on the man? Nope. 

MLB Network wasn’t set up to be “state run” television. Yes, you have to be careful not to cross that invisible line in the sand. To me, the comments written by Rosenthal don’t really cross any lines. I don’t have inside knowledge about how the other league-operated networks do their business, but they’ve never been in the headlines for something like this. 

I’ve written before about the precarious situation some play-by-play and color analysts are in when they are working for the team they’re calling games for. That’s an entirely different situation than this one. Broadcasters who are on the air every day understand going in that being overly critical could have repercussions. At the same time, there is an issue of credibility. If a team is bad and the announcers are talking about how great things are, well that’s a recipe for disaster. The fans will call you a shill and really call into question a lot of things that you’ll say. We as broadcasters need the support of the stations and teams we work for, to be able to call into question things that need to be questioned. 

In this case Rosenthal, who is about as respected a journalist as there is in the sport of baseball, was suspended and fired for telling the truth. The commissioner, who represents the owners and ultimately the ownership of the network, couldn’t handle it and flew off the handle instead.

It’s sad really, because Manfred is doing the viewers of the network a major disservice. Rosenthal is one of the kings of breaking news in my mind. I often can’t wait to hear his reports because they are filled with valuable information. This information isn’t opinion, its fact based as it’s gathered from credible sources and delivered by an equally credible source. 

The game of baseball is in enough trouble already. It has an image problem. Manfred has an image problem. Things that seem petty like this unwarranted dismissal play right into that narrative. Why would you try to make things worse with something like this? It’s not like Rosenthal is one of those people that continually stirs up controversy. He is above that. His reporting is not sensationalist.

Manfred’s job is not an easy one, I’ll give him that. He has to deal with the egos of some owners that don’t want to give an inch. As the lockout continues, without an ending in sight, the chasm between the fans and baseball continues to widen. I would never tell the man how to do his job, but I will say, if you alienate the fans enough, your sport is finished. 

Sports Radio News

NBC Sports Names Al Michaels To Emeritus Role

The partnership will keep Michaels on for the Olympics and NBC’s NFL playoff coverage.

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Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

NBC Sports, which had been the home of Al Michaels since 2006, will still feature the veteran broadcaster despite Michaels’ moving to Amazon for Thursday Night Football.

The network announced that Michaels will still be a part of NBC Sports’ high-profile broadcasting properties including the Olympics and NFL Playoffs. Michaels’ last broadcast with the network had been Super Bowl LVI in February, his eleventh Super Bowl.

NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua said in a statement, “Revered by viewers and colleagues, Al has been the soundtrack for many of the greatest moments in sports television history. We are thrilled that he’s staying in the family and raising the stature of our events for years to come.”

“I’m looking forward to continuing my longtime NBC relationship while also launching the Thursday Night Football package on Amazon this fall. A special thanks to NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua and the folks at NBCUniversal for their help in making this happen,” Michaels said.

Michaels moved to Amazon Prime Video this season for their Thursday Night Football package. He will be paired with ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit. This season will mark his 37th NFL play-by-play campaign in primetime.

Following another historic broadcasting moment in which Michaels deftly demonstrated his expertise and versatility, he became just the second sportscaster in history to receive a News Emmy nomination for his coverage of the San Francisco earthquake during the 1989 World Series.

In addition to the 11 Super Bowls, Michaels has worked nine Olympics and called eight World Series.

In December 2020, Michaels was honored with the 2021 Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Michaels is one of only five distinguished broadcasters to be recognized with the baseball honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Award (Dick Enberg, Lindsey Nelson, Jack Buck, and Curt Gowdy).

One of television’s most respected journalists, Michaels has covered more major sports events than any sportscaster, including 20 years as the play-by-play voice of Monday Night Football. He is the only commentator to call the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals and host the Stanley Cup Final for network television. In addition, Michaels called the classic 1985 championship boxing match between Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns and “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler.

Among his many accolades, Michaels has captured eight Emmy Awards – seven for Outstanding Sports Personality – Play-by-Play and one in 2011 for the Lifetime Achievement Award, and has three times (1980, 1983 and 1986) received the NSSA Award from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association; he was inducted into the NSSA Hall of Fame in 1998. Michaels was named Sportscaster of the Year in 1996 by the American Sportscasters Association, and, in 1991, he was named Sportscaster of the Year by the Washington Journalism Review.

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Sports Radio News

Thom Brennaman Continues to Search for a Second Chance

Brennaman has been searching for a broadcasting gig since he spoke a homophobic slur in August 2020 on a Cincinnati Reds broadcast.

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USA Today

The last time Thom Brennaman sported the microphone for a major broadcast was August 19, 2020. It was game that featured a doubleheader between the Cincinnati Reds and the Kanasas City Royals and in between the two, Brennaman blurted a homophobic slur that has thus far kept him off radio and television.

Brennaman has struggled to find his footing since that error. Recently, Brennaman recorded an episode of Tell Me A Story I Don’t Know, a podcast hosted George Ofman. That episode was available Tuesday and in it, Ofman asks where Brennaman thinks he’ll be in six months.

Brennaman said, “I have no idea. I really don’t. There were a couple of times I thought that maybe somebody out there was going to give me a chance to broadcast again and then this same thing comes up again.”

Brennaman sounded baffled that he’s still searching for work, citing other influential local leaders and what they opined in the days after the incident. “You know what you find out George, the guy who’s considered to be the leading voice of the LGBT community here in Cincinnati, he’s a big executive with Johnson and Johnson, a guy named Ryan Messer. He had written, and I had never met Ryan Messer at this point in time, like two days after what I said, he wrote a letter to the editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer, local paper, that Thom Brennaman should not be fired. There is room for growth here in so many areas and a great opportunity for him, for the gay community, for the Reds, for our society.”

Brennaman added that the two met as well as did Brennaman with other leaders in the LGBT community at the time. “I reached out to the guy and made contact with him and he’s the guy who’s house we went to that I made reference to earlier in listening to a bunch of the stories with some gay leaders. But anyway, I said ‘if you have people there – and I know you do – that are gay that work there, I would put up the amount of hours that I have spent in the gay community in some form or fashion over the last year against anybody you have that works in that office that’s gay’.”

Despite his efforts, the broadcasting veteran is dismayed that it’s failed to sway opinion, “it’s almost like in some cases it just falls on deaf ears.”

Regardless of where he is at now, he’s confident that eventually he’ll be afforded another opportunity. “But I ‘d like to think there’s somebody out there – and there will be and all it takes is one – is just to say ‘you know what, this was a mistake. Here’s the documentation of what the guy’s tried to do since then. We’re going to take a chance – answer some tough questions – and take a chance and get him back in the booth.”

And if another opportunity doesn’t present itself? “If it doesn’t happen, it’s not going to be the end of my life.”

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Sports Radio News

The Rundown With Jeff Michael Coming To SportsMap Radio

“The Rundown with Jeff Michael will debut on June 6.”

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Jeff Michael is getting a promotion at SportsMap Radio. He is moving from the part-time staff into a new midday show.

The Rundown with Jeff Michael will debut on June 6. The network describes the new two-hour show as energetic and fast-paced.

“Sports talk radio always meant the world to me,” Jeff Michael said in a press release. “Having an opportunity to reach such a large national audience is something I do not take lightly. While I’m so grateful for the opportunity, my focus will always be on creating captivating and informative content.”

Michael has been with SportsMap Radio since 2020. He has also been a prolific host in the podcasting space.

“I feel this is a perfect format for Jeff to excel,” CEO David Gow added. “From listening to fill-in appearances, you can tell he has tremendous command of his audience. You cannot easily teach what Jeff Michael already possesses.”

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