We’ve had to spend more time listening to and dissecting things Commissioner Rob Manfred says this offseason than any other offseason I can remember … and there was a new CBA negotiated just last year!
I guess we’re hearing so much from him now, precisely because of that new CBA, but yeesh.
In any case, Commissioner Manfred addressed the media on pace-of-play, rebuilding clubs, penalties and much more yesterday, and you can see his full comments at MLB.com, USA Today, and SB Nation, among other places. We’ll comb through some of the highlights below, alongside some thoughts of my own …
- On pace-of-play, Commissioner Manfred squashes the idea that it’s not a problem. “Pace of game is a fan issue,” Manfred said Tuesday at the Cactus League media day. “Our research tells us that it’s a fan issue. Our broadcast partners tell us it’s a fan issue. Independent research that our broadcast partners do confirm the fact that it is a fan issue.” It’s a fan issue and needs to be addressed. The lens for MLB, remember, is much wider than folks like you and me – hardcore fans like us do not perceive pace-of-play as nearly as significant an issue as more casual fans, who make up the bulk of MLB’s theoretical future audience, many of whom could become hardcore fans if the sport keeps on working to get them more interested and involved (that’s not just pace-of-play, mind you, it’s a ton of things like kids playing the sport, easier/more affordable access to the sport, etc.).
- Obviously, the league has begun addressing the problem with some initiatives like the limitations on mound visits, while pushing the pitch clock idea off for at least a year, and Manfred seems to think the league deserves some credit from the union for doing so: “We went the extra mile, maybe the extra two miles, in an effort to make sure that we not only received but took into account player input before we decided on pace of game changes that we’re going to make for this year.” If you recall, the league could’ve just implemented the clock without any input from the union had they so pleased, but instead of that or even a compromise, they scrapped the clock all together. (Well, for now: if pace doesn’t improve this year, a clock next year is very much still on the table.)
- Manfred went on to say that he and the league will continue to focus on improving the pace-of-play, but now plans on acting more slowly, presumably so there’s not as much public pushback.
- Over the offseason, Major League Baseball has apparently commissioned “independent experts” to examine the manufacturing of baseballs to see if anything has changed. Shrug. Who wants to bet they say the balls are still within the acceptable range … while we still see homers leave the park at rates never seen before the Juiced Ball Era?
- Manfred doesn’t like the term “tanking” for teams that are rebuilding (you don’t say), and thinks that fans just don’t always have the entire story when they say “Team X is tanking again.” And while that may be true … it’s not entirely fair. Maybe we use the term tanking too liberally, but what else would you call what the Marlins are doing? Or what the Rays are doing? Yeah, they’re rebuilding … but the depths to which they are doing it at times seems like they are aggressively seeking out additional losses, rather than merely seeking to add younger talent in trades. (To say nothing of the lack of free agent moves.) If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and tanks like a duck …
Derek Jeter in a duck costume … It'll make sense later. pic.twitter.com/uhZ2VNFUL6
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) February 21, 2018
- Expectedly, Manfred is relieved that the free agent market has begun to loosen up lately … but instead of leaving it there and being happy for the players, he couldn’t resist taking one final stand: “Some of the delay in the market was related to players taking their time making a decision as to whether they were going to accept those offers. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the player’s right to hold out as long as they want to get the best possible deal. But in evaluating what’s going on out there, I think it’s important to remember that it does take two parties to make an agreement.” I don’t know why, but this just rubs me the wrong way, especially when we more or less know that many players are taking deals that are lower than their equals have received in past years. Yu Darvish wasn’t just weighing whether he liked Minnesota or Chicago better, he was waiting for a stronger offer overall.
- On bringing the All-Star Game to Wrigley Field, Manfred hinted that the Cubs could play host as soon as they update their visitor’s dugout, and that doesn’t happen until next year. That’s the status update. If I had to guess, as soon as that visitors clubhouse construction gets underway, the league will announce an upcoming All-Star Game at Wrigley Field. Given that 2020 is exactly 30 years since their last event, given the recent renovations and investment, the quality on-field product, the support of the city, etc., it just seems like a very good bet that the Cubs will get that All-Star Game in two years. The Nationals are getting it this year, and the Indians are getting it next year, by the way.
- Manfred also seemed to indicate that the A’s might be nearing a deal on a new stadium site, which is important now that the Rays have decided on a location of their own. Once both stadiums are settled, the league plans on revisiting the idea of expansion.
- And finally, it seems that Commissioner Rob Manfred and MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre are not on the same page …
Commissioner Rob Manfred just said that if a catcher or coach makes a 7th visit, there would have to be a pitching change.
— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) February 20, 2018
Joe Torre says the umpire will tell a catcher to get back behind the plate if he attempts to violate the 6 mound visit rule…if he keeps going it could lead to an ejection, etc. MLB hoping doesn't get to that
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) February 20, 2018
- So … which is it, guys? You’d think the league’s highest officials would be on the same page about what the consequence is since they just announced the rule, and surely they thought about what would happen if the rule was violated … right? Brett discussed this topic in greater detail after Willson Contreras made similar comments yesterday.