Major League Baseball’s new Commissioner, Rob Manfred, has been on something of a media tour in his first week of service, and there are some really interesting interviews out there that I highly recommend checking out. There’s this piece in the New York Times, this interview with Ken Rosenthal, this interview with John Manuel, and this letter to the fans.
Some of the general takeaways:
- Manfred is saying the right things, for the most part. He comes off as very progressive, relative to his predecessor, Bud Selig, and he seems to recognize the challenges that baseball faces going forward in terms of its aging fan base. He also sees that the solution is going to come not just from trying to get more young people to watch baseball, but also from getting more kids involved in playing the game and experience it via emerging technology.
- That will also mean MLB having a better, proactive relationship with amateur baseball (for example, better coordination with the College World Series (though no one is commenting on that whole move-the-draft-into-July thing)).
- Manfred expects various pace-of-play changes to be phased in over the course of several years, not just one quick blast. He also seems open to changes that could improve offense/more balls in play, but he probably won’t get into too many specifics given how folks reacted when he said he was “open” to the idea of eliminating extreme shifts (it’s pretty clear that all he was saying is that it’s worth discussing lots of possible approaches).
- Manfred appears to be strongly in favor of an international draft, which most folks have been expecting in the new CBA (which comes after 2016). I think it’s unfortunate for the players in the affected countries, but, at the same time, it also seems unfair that Kris Bryant’s leverage maxes out at $6 million, while Yoan Moncada’s is probably closer to $40 million. Since full-on free agency is never going to happen, and the draft isn’t going anywhere, it does seem like an international draft – or one world-wide draft – is coming.
- As for the current draft system – slotted bonus pools, competitive balance picks, etc. – Manfred’s interview with BA indicates he’s not eager to see many changes. They don’t really get too deeply into the biggest problem (the interplay between slotted bonuses and losing draft picks to sign free agents), but, then again, it’s shaping up to be an offseason where that wasn’t as big a problem as it’s been in recent years.
- It doesn’t sound like Manfred is going to be pushing for the Designated Hitter in the NL anytime soon, because he doesn’t see NL owners really wanting it. I’m pretty cynical about that – because having the DH in the NL is pretty clearly the fair thing to do – and I wonder if what he’s ultimately saying is that NL owners recognize that having the DH in the NL will mean adding one more pricey job to their payroll. Opposing it on that basis would make me very unhappy.
- Manfred remains in favor of the All-Star Game deciding home-field advantage in the World Series because of the impact it has on players/people caring a little more about the ASG. I think it’s really silly, but, at the same time, you need watch only one Pro Bowl or one NBA All-Star Game to see how silly it can go in the other direction.