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Volume 25 No. 26
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MLB Reportedly Complains To ESPN Following Contentious Le Batard-Manfred Interview

After ESPN Radio's "Dan Le Batard Show" had a "contentious interview" with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred last Wednesday, league officials "complained about the spot to the highest levels of ESPN management," according to sources cited by Ryan Glasspiegel of THE BIG LEAD. This episode "underscores the delicate balance ESPN must strike between its journalism and its broadcast rights partners, and the extent to which the former can make the latter uncomfortable." Le Batard opened his radio show the morning following the interview by admitting that his "tone was bad and that he was too emotional." He added that he "should have just stuck to facts as opposed to pounding the table." Le Batard: “ESPN has a partnership with baseball and when you do something like that in public it doesn’t feel like being a very good partner. Rob Manfred is pretty used to safe spaces with his interviews. He’s probably never done an interview quite like that.” He added, "I was not looking to get the commissioner to embarrass himself. And I certainly wasn’t looking to embarrass myself or this network. I simply wanted answers to difficult questions" (THEBIGLEAD.com, 12/22). YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Owens noted with ESPN being an MLB rightsholder, 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." It is a "classic conflict of interest that Le Batard threw by the wayside" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/22). In N.Y., Bob Raissman named Le Batard and co-host Jon "Stugotz" Weiner his "Dude Of The Week." Their "no-nonsense interview" went right after Manfred, who was "rattled." Manfred's non-answers "provided all the evidence needed to know he knew what would go down in Miami." Stugotz "added depth to the spot with his follow-up inquiries" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/24).

PLAYING HARDBALL: In Miami, Barry Jackson noted local businessman Jorge Mas, who bid for the Marlins, conveyed this month that "if his Marlins offer had been accepted," he would have gone with a $130M payroll in '18, retained RF Giancarlo Stanton and hired a new GM. Instead, the Marlins "intend" to have a payroll of $90M or less -- a drop from $115M last season and much lower than the $140M it would have taken to keep the '17 team together. Mas "bid slightly more" than $1B for the team, but that was less than the Bruce Sherman-Derek Jeter $1.2B bid (MIAMI HERALD, 12/25).