North American baseball’s MLB has announced Rob Manfred will continue as the league's commissioner through the 2028 season after signing a four-year contract extension.

The new contract comes after MLB’s 30 majority team owners voted to extend Manfred’s contract yesterday (July 26) and ensures he will lead negotiations for the league’s next collective bargaining agreement (CBA) during the 2026-27 off-season.

In a statement, Manfred said: “It is an honor to serve the best game in the world and to continue the pursuit of strengthening our sport on and off the field.

“This season our players are displaying the most vibrant version of our game, and sports fans are responding in a manner that is great for Major League Baseball's future. Together, all of us in the game will work toward presenting our sport at its finest and broadening its reach and impact for our loyal fans.”

Manfred has been MLB’s commissioner since succeeding Bud Selig in 2014. His previous contract was due to expire in January 2025 and the new deal will run through January 2029.

Since taking over, revenues have grown and he has looked to quicken the game’s on-field pace with a number of initiatives including introducing a pitch clock, limiting defensive shifts, and widening the bases.

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While the changes were seen as controversial at first, they have been proven successful, shaving around 30 minutes off the average game time.

However, he also presided over the owner-imposed lockout in December 2021 when the previous CBA expired and negotiations had stalled – the MLB’s first work stoppage since the 1994-95 players’ strike. The lockout ended last March when the MLB and MLBPA players' union agreed to a new CBA.

He was also criticized for his handling of the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal, particularly the decision to give cheating players immunity from punishment in return for honest accounts of what happened. Instead, he punished the manager, general manager, and the franchise as a whole with fines, suspensions, and draft-pick forfeiture. He has since expressed regret for his actions.

The Astros used a video camera in the center field seats to film the opposing catcher's signals to the pitcher regarding the next pitch during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Astros players or team staffers watching the live camera feed behind the dugout then used various audio cues, such as banging on a trash can, to signal to the batter what type of pitch was coming next.

He also received a significant backlash from players and fans for calling the World Series trophy a “piece of metal” during an interview in 2020, which he apologized for soon after.

Seattle Mariners chairman John Stanton, who served as an executive council to approve Manfred’s extension, added: “At a critical moment in the history of our game, Commissioner Manfred has listened to our fans and worked closely with our players to improve America's pastime.

“Under his leadership, we have been responsive to the fans' desire for more action and better pace, continued the game's spirit of innovation, expanded MLB's role in youth baseball and softball, and beyond.

“The significant momentum that MLB has built reflects his ongoing initiatives that are advancing the game.”

The 2023 MLB season began on March 30 and will end on October 1.

Image: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images