MLB Network cuts ties with Ken Rosenthal, reportedly over criticism of Rob Manfred

One of the biggest reporters in baseball is no longer welcome on MLB Network.

The league-owned network has cut ties with Ken Rosenthal, and it is believed that Rosenthal's past criticism of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred in columns written for The Athletic played a part in the decision, according to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post.

Rosenthal was reportedly kept off the air for three months in 2020 after he wrote columns analyzing Manfred's handling of negotiations over a season threatened, and ultimately shrunk, by the COVID-19 pandemic. No formal suspension was ever announced and Rosenthal was still paid, ultimately returning for MLB Network's trade deadline coverage at the end of August.

Rosenthal was once again a regular on the network after that, but his contract ultimately expired at the end of 2021. From the Post:

“As MLB Network continues to look at fresh ways to bring baseball to our viewers, there is a natural turnover in our talent roster that takes place each year,” an MLB spokesman told The Post. “Ken played a significant part at MLB Network over the last 13 years. From spring training to the winter meetings, we thank him for his work across MLB Network’s studio, game and event programming, and wish him the very best going forward.”

Rosenthal confirmed he was done at MLB Network in subsequent tweets, with a pointed note about maintaining his journalistic integrity, and confirmed he will continue to work at The Athletic and Fox Sports.

What did Ken Rosenthal write that got him off MLB Network?

The columns that got Rosenthal in hot water with MLB Network would have come around June 2020, when the league and MLB Players Association were trading barbs and proposals with the season still shut down by the pandemic.

Rosenthal was among the most active writers on the topic, with his byline appearing 27 times on The Athletic in June alone. Nearly all of those articles covered the negotiations, some as straight news articles and others coming from an analytical perspective.

The harshest words came in a column published June 16 with the headline "Rosenthal: Manfred must strike a deal with the players or ruin his legacy," in which the reporter accuses the commissioner of "performing a massive flip-flop" and alludes to a perception he is "beholden to owners and out of touch with players."

There are also paragraphs like this:

[Manfred] and the owners, supposed stewards of the game, are turning the national pastime into a national punch line, effectively threatening to take their ball and go home while the country struggles with medical, economic and societal concerns.

Baseball is a business, we all know that. But it is a business that former commissioner Bud Selig describes as a social institution with social responsibilities, a business that holds an antitrust exemption, distinguishing it from every other professional sports league. Such a business should hold itself to a higher standard, but in these talks, if you can even call them that, Manfred and the owners keep sinking lower. Unless making dead-on-arrival proposals, tone-deaf public remarks and other assorted blunders is your idea of negotiating savvy.

There were also articles such as "MLB’s latest proposal to players comes with sharply worded letter marking ill will" and "Rosenthal: A July 4 return is all but gone, with baseball as far from a deal as ever." A league cheerleader, he was not.

That is all undeniably harsh criticism, but it's probably worth noting Rosenthal wasn't the only reporter harshly criticizing Manfred for how he handled a season under threat of cancellation. However, Rosenthal may have been the only one to do so on an MLB payroll.