- ESPN / YouTube
- ESPN’s Dan Le Batard said he was asked to “back off” of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred following a contentious interview and critical comments.
- Le Batard was critical of how MLB handled the sale of the Miami Marlins, and accused them of working with Derek Jeter and the former owner to “bleep South Florida.”
- Le Batard also accused the commissioner of not being honest when asked what he knew of Jeter’s plans to gut the team of star players.
- This is another example of the fine line ESPN must walk as a sports-journalism entity that is also in business relationships with the very leagues they are tasked with covering.
ESPN’s Dan Le Batard made it clear that he is not going to back down from his criticism of Major League Baseball, Commissioner Rob Manfred, and Derek Jeter, even if the request comes from his own bosses.
Le Batard was openly critical of how MLB handled the sale of the Miami Marlins for $1.2 billion to a group that included Jeter. That criticism hit a boiling point on Wednesday when Manfred was a guest on “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz” for an interview that quickly became contentious and uncomfortable.
On Thursday, Le Batard said he was asked by ESPN management to “back off” the commissioner, presumably because of the network’s relationship with MLB. Le Batard flatly refused.
“Management here at ESPN would like me to leave Rob Manfred alone,” Le Batard said, adding later: “I am being told to back off. And the answer is, ‘No.'”
- Mike Ehrmann/Getty
Le Batard has been critical of the decision by MLB to approve Jeter as the owner of the Marlins despite his lack of experience, despite his group’s lack of deep pockets, and because of their plan to immediately slash the team’s payroll, something Marlins fans have been scarred by in the past. Since Jeter took over control of baseball operations, he has traded several of the Marlins’ best players, including reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton.
Le Batard also accused Manfred of not being honest during their interview on Wednesday, when he was asked if MLB knew of Jeter’s plan to slash the payroll.
Manfred said he did not know of any specific plans to trade players. Le Batard said he has seen documents proving that MLB did know.
“While I am not interested in embarassing the commissioner of baseball, I am interested in the truth,” Le Batard said on Thursday. “And the truth on this one is, that baseball, and Jeter, and [former owner Jeffrey] Loria, and [former team president David] Samson, all worked together to bleep South Florida. That happened. That is not an opinion, I have seen the documents.”
There are some similarities between this showdown and the one that led to the suspension of Bill Simmons. Simmons called NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a “liar” on his podcast, and then dared his bosses to punish him. Simmons was suspended for three weeks, a suspension that played a major role in his ugly, public divorce from the network
Le Batard did say that he understood why ESPN wanted him to back off, but that the answer was still a resounding ‘No.’
“We are all in the big business of sports and sometimes those interests are aligned and sometimes they are not,” Le Batard said. “And I would understand why baseball and ESPN wants me to move off of this, and the answer, to both of you, is ‘No.'”
You can see part of Le Batard’s comments here: