Will any MLB owner step up like Robert Kraft did 9 years ago?

Rob Bradford
June 05, 2020 - 1:38 pm
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There are 14 current Major League Baseball owners who have been at the top of their organizations' masthead for 20 years or more. Just four bought their respective teams within the last 10 years.

The point is that there are a lot of very rich people/entities who have for one reason or another decided for quite a while now that owning a Major League Baseball team isn't such a bad thing. They all got into it for some reason -- we would hope a love of the game being at least part of the motivation -- and haven't jumped ship.

Now is supposed to be their time, just like it was for Robert Kraft nine years ago.

As we sit here the wall put up between the players and owners is thick, with both sides digging in on the financial what's what when it comes to a 2020 season. The same was the case back in 2011 when the NFL players and owners were involved in a lockout that ended up last 136 days.

Plenty of times during that conflict there was the same kind of animous we are hearing on a daily basis in baseball these days. But it got resolved. You know why? Because one of the owners -- Kraft -- decided that somebody needed to step out from their side of the moat and bridge the gap.

As NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith said at the time, Kraft "impressed upon everyone, in a sober way, what our responsibilities were." That dynamic and importance was captured in the press conference announcing the resolution, with the Patriots' owner and player rep Jeff Saturday embracing.

Why does it feel so implausible that one of these MLB owners might follow suit?

Probably because the perception we have of MLB's ownership group right now is a largely-silent collection whose few public statements are things like ...

Arizona owner Ken Kendrick: Players' 114-game proposal is "a non-starter."

Cubs' owner Tom Ricketts: Owners' losses this year are "biblical."

Other than that all we really have is Rob Manfred serving as their CEO and occasional media leaks/trial balloons offering the owners' way of thinking.

The closest thing we have to some public understanding about the plight that potentially faces Major League Baseball actually came from the organization's newest owner, Kansas City's John Sherman. He isn't ever going to be the guy in this situation to publicly bridge the gap. He is too new. But what he did do was definitively show an understanding of what baseball will need by keeping every single Royals minor leaguer on the payroll. That, of course, set stage for his general manager Dayton Moore getting across perhaps the most on-point message during this entire mess.

“Understand this: The minor-league players, the players you’ll never know about, the players that never get out of rookie ball or High A, those players have as much impact on the growth of our game (as) 10-year or 15-year veteran players. They have as much opportunity to influence the growth of our game as those individuals who played for a long time because those individuals go back into their communities and teach the game, work in academies, are JUCO coaches, college coaches, scouts, coaches in pro baseball. They’re growing the game constantly because they’re so passionate about it. So we felt it was really, really important not to release one minor-league player during this time, a time we needed to stand behind them.”

Negotiations are negotiations and that isn't anything new. For the better part of those 136 days during that NFL mess that was also the case. But in the end, Kraft proved to be a difference-maker.

Baseball needs one of those right about now.

For a complete list of candidates, click here.