Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

rob manfredWith the start of the World Series arriving, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred discussed a variety of topics, and you can see his remarks here, here, here, and here, among many other places.

Some of his remarks, together with my thoughts …

  • It sounds like MLB will be presenting a new expanded-netting plan to owners in the coming weeks, and it’s possible we’ll start the 2016 season with more protective netting behind home plates around the league. Obviously fan safety got a lot of attention this year, as there were a number of injuries that could have been prevented by more netting. The reason it’s a discussion, of course, is because, generally, fans would prefer that their seats are not obstructed – even a small bit – by an object. Being injured by a flying object is worse. The question is where to draw that line.
  • Manfred has had some preliminary discussions with the MLBPA about player safety with respect to slides at second base. As you’ll recall, two very high-profile takeout slides late in the season – Chris Coghlan and Chase Utley – led to season-ending injuries to Jung-Ho Kang and Ruben Tejada. I’ve offered my thoughts on the subject, and I hope there are some changes before next season.

  • Manfred doesn’t necessarily like the possibility that the World Series will go into November, but he implied that the only alternative is starting the season in March, which is “no picnic either.” Further, teams in warm-weather spots don’t want to have all of the early-season games forced on them, because kids are still in school, and attendance is worse at those times of year. Undiscussed, apparently, is the possibility of scheduling more doubleheaders or shortening the season to 154 games.
  • Diversity among managers and executives seems to be receding in recent years, which Manfred attributed to natural ebbs and flows, but he added, “I think it’s incumbent upon us to come up with additional programs and ways to make sure our numbers look better over the long haul.” Like it is in any arena, diversity is a good and valuable thing, though getting there organically can be a tricky thing for reasons to complex and numerous and frustrating to get into here. From where I sit, it’s good that this is staying on our collective radar. That’s the first step, at a minimum.
  • MLB has, at times, cracked down on fans and websites sharing GIFs and Vines from game broadcasts this year, which is entirely their privilege to do, since they are the rightsholder in those videos and images. The question, of course, is whether it’s the right approach for MLB to take when fans are trying to spread highlights of the sport and get others excited and interested. Manfred expressed an understanding of that balance, but didn’t really offer too much to go off of: “I do think that it’s important for baseball to be available on as many platforms as possible. And I think what we try to do is strike a realistic balance between protecting what we regard to be very valuable intellectual property rights on the one hand with allowing fans to use as many platforms as possible. Do we always get that right? No. Are we still feeling our way through that process? Yes.”

  • If MLB made their GIFs/Vines/etc. available more quickly – because, let’s be honest, social media is all about being in the moment, which can evaporate within minutes – then I don’t think you’d have as much of an issue here (personally, I prefer to share official, MLB/team versions of GIFs/Vines/videos when they are available). But, as it stands, things like this are completely unacceptable:

  • Given that the official accounts weren’t doing GIFs or Vines for the entirety of the game (and official highlights weren’t really coming out either), I’m assuming there was a rights issue with FOX not wanting them to do it. But even that is not the fans’ problem, that’s MLB’s problem. And it’s something they need to address as soon as possible.
  • Embroiled in controversy, daily fantasy sports are a target for criticism from many corners, which means that MLB’s significant relationship with DraftKings was a topic of conversation for Manfred, who said, “I think that fantasy is an important source of fan engagement. It has been for a long time …. I’m quite convinced [daily fantasy sports] is a game of skill, as defined by the federal statute. And I’m comfortable with the idea that it’s not gaming.” I agree with Manfred’s position that there’s a huge difference between fantasy sports – even daily fantasy sports – and pure gambling dice roll, and I think there are a number of opportunities for enhancing the sport’s health in the fantasy sphere, like we’ve seen with fantasy football. I really hope the disdain for daily fantasy in some corners does not derail what could be a significant net benefit to baseball (especially baseball, given the long, daily season) in the long run.

  • Obligatory disclosures there: Bleacher Nation is a partner with DraftKings, too, so I have a separate, financial interest in seeing them survive. But a disclosure disclosure: I still believe everything I said above, and I enjoy daily fantasy, myself. I think it’s good for baseball, is not gambling, and can be a lot of fun. It also just happens to be good for BN … if you sign up to play here. (Turning a news-related disclosure into a completely transparent advertisement? That’s how you business!)

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