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Rob Manfred and Tony Clark Speak: Juiced Baseballs, Expansion, Changes to IFA, More

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At this year’s 88th Annual MLB All-Star Game festivities, two of baseball biggest-wigs, commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA chief Tony Clark, addressed the media on range of topics.

One of the more directly Cubs-related bits was about bringing the All-Star game to Wrigley Field, but we’ll get into that a little later today (short version: there could be something brewing).

For now, know that you can see their comments in full at MLB.com, ESPN, the Tampa Bay Times, MLB Trade Rumors, and elsewhere. We’ll tackle the highlights bit-by-bit below, alongside some thoughts of my own. Let’s go.


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  • Both Clark and Manfred are thrilled with Aaron Judge this season, and believe he has both the on and off-field presence to be a future face of the game. And, hey, why not? Judge is killing the ball this year, plays for the Yankees, won the Home Run Derby and seems to enjoy the fun/external baseball stuff, too.
  • Once again, Manfred vehemently denies that the baseballs have been juiced in recent years. And also once again, he repeated that the baseballs are all still falling within the tolerance of the specifications that have existed for a while. But allow me to theorize for a moment, because I have a guess at what’s happening: the baseballs were juiced (intentionally or unintentionally) around mid-2015, but kept within the range of tolerance (which we know from studies is a relatively big window). MLB didn’t expect the effect to materialize so quickly and clearly, but it did and the world noticed. However, because the balls are still within the level of tolerance, MLB can say they didn’t juice them, so as not to appear to be changing the game too radically. Call me Sherlock Cerami.
  • More reasons why I’m a genius:

  • If the balls fell within the acceptable range and the range was calibrated perfectly, there’d be no reason for a change. But clearly, the range (if we’re to believe MLB) allows for an instant and significant spike in home runs if balls fall to the right end of the spectrum. So, yeah, that seems like a pretty reasonable guess (a change in the bats are also mentioned, but at this point, given what we know, that doesn’t seem very likely). In any case, Manfred (rightfully and thankfully) concluded by saying they still have to decide if the league even should do anything about the spike that everyone (besides the pitchers) probably loves.
  •  Manfred likes the new 10-day disabled list rule (down from 15 days), but was very aware of the games played by teams throughout the season and especially just before the break (note the Cubs put John Lackey on the DL before the break, but he probably won’t miss a start). He even suggested that they’re having internal conversations about the rule to see if it should be tweaked. Tony Clark, on the other hand, loves the new rule and the flexibility it provides teams and players.
  • There’s not much of an update on pace-of-play, but Manfred did address the issue. This time around, he focused on too many pitching changes and how that leads to too many strikeouts. Both of those are issues in their own right, and it’s easy to see how the former exacerbates the later. Manfred doesn’t want to make unilateral changes, but it’s within his power to do so. In my opinion, you should expect changes this winter.
  • Tony Clark says the players are happy with the increased drug testing around the league. In fact, he says that the players are the ones who’ve pushed for more testing in the first place. Which, sure, I get that, and I’m happy to hear the players are pushing for it themselves. If you’re a hard-working, talented guy, why would you want others to get by and potentially steal your future contract by cheating?

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  • The Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics have wanted to get new ballparks for a while now, but Rob Manfred says that MLB is willing to wait. Why? Well, he believes that Tampa is still a viable location for a ball club and that the team should keep trying to make it work. HOWEVER, he suggested that he won’t let them toil away in Tampa forever if there’s a better option out there. He just doesn’t see it yet.
  • And to that end, MLB is still interested in expanding the league, but won’t begin that process seriously until these two stadium issues are resolved.
  • Although there were some significant changes to International Free Agency during the last round of CBA negotiations (notably the hard cap), more changes appear to be coming:

  • Specifically, both Manfred and Clark seem interested in making uniform rules for all foreign professionals. That would be a HUGE change from the existing infrastructure which has different rules for different countries (posting systems, IFA restrictions, etc.), and would be an even HUGER change if it involved a draft.
  • I really hate doing this to you, because I obviously couldn’t possibly know for sure, but if those changes come into effect this winter – the winter Shohei Otani is theoretically coming to the states – perhaps there’s still a way the Cubs could scoop him up. That’s not based on anything, seriously, but who knows what the changes could be or how quickly they could be implemented? Isn’t it fun to dream?

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Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @Michael_Cerami.

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