Six Influential Figures Who Will Shape Baseball In The 2020s

Image credit: Rob Manfred (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox via Getty Images)

In many cases the biggest newsmakers in baseball in the 2020s will be names you likely already know. That is because the early years of the 2020s will be extremely important to the course of baseball throughout the decade.

Major League Baseball is currently negotiating with Minor League Baseball, the MLB Players Association and the MLB Umpires Association on deals that could shape the decade.

1. Rob Manfred
MLB Commissioner

Call him the “economics commissioner.” Call him the “efficiency commissioner.” The Bottom line is that Manfred rolls into the 2020s as maybe the most hardline leader of Major League Baseball since Bowie Kuhn. Not only could Manfred blow up the minor leagues, but questions remain as to whether the chilly relationship with the MLB Players Association could upend what has been an unprecedented stretch of labor peace that was reached under Bud Selig’s tenure. Ultimately, games may not be missed in the event of a strike or lockout. And, some form of pseudo-affiliation with contracted minor league clubs could occur to keep baseball in communities, but over the next decade Manfred will either grow fan interest, or seen it wane in the interest of revenues.

2. Tony Clark
MLBPA Executive Director

As head of the players’ union, Clark sees a make-or-break moment with the current Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire in 2021. Whether there was a slow slip of power leading back to the point when Donald Fehr left the union for the players, or whether the last round of negotiations went heavily in favor of MLB owners, either way, all eyes will be on Clark to see if he can claw back and get some power back to the players. Like Manfred, the question will be: will he have to go a nuclear route and go to war in the interest of the long-term interests of the players? Clark will be a figure that looms well into the 2020s.

3. Dan Halem
MLB Chief Legal Officer

If Rob Manfred is the face of MLB, Halem is behind Manfred as a key figure in driving MLB’s wide-ranging policy. In 2018 he spoke about the possibility of contracting minor league clubs as part of a plan to enhance player wages. He’s been the one to outline MLB’s position on the minors as part of the warring between the sides in the press. Halem is the deputy commissioner so he’s important to watch over the next decade. Should the owners look to move past Manfred, for whatever reason, Halem will be in the conversation to replace him.

4. Bruce Meyer
MLBPA Chief Negotiator

Brought over from the NHL’s players association, Meyer worked with former MLBPA head Donald Fehr to continue to build up the power of the players in the NHL. Sources at both MLB and the MLBPA say that Meyer’s presence has been important in getting details around bargaining focused.

5. Heads Of Content
Streaming Services

Whether it’s Jennifer Salke (Amazon), Susanne Daniels (YouTube), or others at the likes of Netflix or DAZN, some of the most important figures to impact the next decade will largely be names unknown to the average baseball fan. The impact that streaming services entering as key players in media rights will alter the landscape from the small handful of traditional television networks, to a growing number of digital outlets that know the value of live content in the DVR era. These outlets will provide additional revenues to MLB, which will affect player salaries and the ability of owners to take on more risk with longer contracts.

6. Pat O’Conner
MiLB President

Before MLB and the MLBPA work on a new collective bargaining agreement, MLB and Minor League Baseball have a Professional Baseball Agreement to settle. With MLB pushing for a 25 percent reduction in the number of MiLB teams, MiLB has positioned this PBA negotiation as a fight for its right to govern its members.

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