MLB commissioner Rob Manfred joined the “Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz” on ESPN Radio Wednesday to discuss the new ownership of the Miami Marlins and ensuing fire sale that took place when Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman bought the team.
The interview was something to behold.
Le Batard, a self-proclaimed proud Miami native who spent years as a reporter and columnist for the Miami Herald before transitioning full time as a radio and TV host, has been vocal in his criticism of new Marlins ownership in the wake of trading National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees in a deal that saw little in return in terms of prospects.
Le Batard and his co-host Stugotz laid into Manfred in an interview that was contentious from the start, with Le Batard opening the segment saying “baseball has been really bad to South Florida for many years, and I don’t believe baseball deserves a single customer in South Florida.”
Le Batard, not satisfied with Manfred’s response to his opening question about whether he knew if the new Marlins owners planned to slash payroll before they bought the team, accused Manfred of lying.
Which brings us to Friday’s report from The Big Lead that MLB officials have complained to “the highest levels” of ESPN management about the interview.
It’s a fascinating story that touches a lot of bases, including the ethics of using taxpayer money to fund pro sports stadiums, MLB team-building in small markets and the conflicts between entertainment and journalism that exist in today’s media conglomerates.
The latter issue is the crux of Friday’s news. Le Batard put his journalist hat on to confront the face of a sports league that he believes has abused its standing in Miami multiple times and broken promises while bilking tax dollars to build a stadium for the Marlins.
At the same time, ESPN and MLB are corporate partners. Which is why the league felt empowered to go to the network’s top brass to complain about what it surely perceives as unflattering light shone on baseball by Le Batard. It’s a classic conflict of interest that Le Batard threw by the wayside.
Le Batard’s primary contention with MLB is that he doesn’t believe that the league or the Marlins have acted in good faith with Miami and its baseball fans. The team has a history of shipping talent out of town — it traded Miguel Cabrera in his prime — and recently built a new stadium with tax payer dollars.
And the city just watched former owner Jeffrey Loria, a man loathed in Miami and sports in general, walk away with a huge payday after selling the team for $1.2 billion dollars.
Le Batard contends that the publicly funded stadium came with an agreement that MLB and the Marlins would strive to give the the city a team worth cheering for. When the team traded Stanton for pennies on the dollar in a payroll-slashing move, Le Batard believes that contract was broken. He also believes, based on his and The Miami Herald’s reporting, that Manfred knew the plan all along was for the Marlins to gut a roster with young talent on offense. Dee Gordon and Marcell Ozuna have also been traded since Jeter and Sherman took over.
Manfred pointed to the rebuilds conducted by the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs that resulted in World Series wins in response to Le Batard’s complaints.
But Le Batard had none of it, claiming Miami had been burned one too many times by MLB.
“The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz” was off the air Friday and will be through the holidays. How the show responds in the new year should make for good radio.
Jason Owens is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter.