In an announcement Thursday, MLB said Epstein would focus mainly on “on-field matters,” which will likely include effects of rule changes. “Theo is one of the most accomplished and thoughtful people in our sport,” Manfred said in the announcement, adding Epstein’s insight would make “the best game in the world an even better game for the next generation.”
This move by MLB sparks more talk from fans who have speculated Epstein may eventually take over Manfred’s role as Commissioner once that seat opens up in 2024.
After the end of the 2020 season, Epstein announced his resignation from the Chicago Cubs organization after nine years with the team, where he played a pivotal role in leading the Cubs to a World Series championship in 2016.
In his statement announcing his resignation from the Cubs, Epstein took the blame for the ever-evolving obsession with analytics and numbers in baseball. Even adding, this philosophy took away from the “aesthetic value of the game and the entertainment value.”
These circumstances are what fans can expect Epstein to address in his new consultant role, as he examines how rule changes will play out on the field and how fans will receive those changes.
Manfred has come under fire from fans who believe he is out of touch with the game and lacks the passion needed for a Commissioner in the sport. Most of this criticism has come from comments Manfred has made, referring to the World Series trophy as a “piece of metal,” and the lackluster handling of the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal in 2019.
One of the most significant rule changes currently on the table for MLB to consider is the possibility of a universal DH. This is an issue widely opposed by National League purists but advocated for by American League fans. In an unorthodox 2020 season, the universal DH was implemented across the league as teams balanced fears of a pandemic with a minimal schedule. Whichever route the league ends up pursuing regarding the designated hitter going forward, that will undoubtedly be a decision that will upset some fans, regardless of analysis done beforehand.
With that considered, it could be a positive note for Manfred to be openly taking action to look at league-wide decisions with the second opinion of Epstein and potentially avoid changing the game in ways that would further divide MLB’s fanbase.