MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made some additional media rounds, once again discussing some impending/proposed rule changes, the issues surrounding pace of play, and much more facing the game of baseball in the coming years.
But even as he retreads topics we’ve discussed many times over, these issues continue to evolve and so does his public opinion.
So let’s strap in, and listen to the man in charge discuss what the future of our beloved sport might look like – because he’s sure to have a big say in that.
- At the top of this MLB.com article by Anthony Castrovince, there sits a video of the Commissioner explaining the very important difference between “pace” of play and “time” of game. On this matter, I agree strongly with the Commissioner and applaud his efforts to distinguish the two:
- Pace of Play, as I’m sure you can imagine (but I’ll explain anyway), is the primary target of MLB’s rule changes, and refers to the actual on-field action. As Manfred puts it, “Pace relates to dead time caused by batters stepping out, pitchers not working quickly, [and] trips to the mound.” A better pace of game would solve most of MLB’s problems (in this area).
- Time of Game, on the other hand, refers to the overall length of the game. That, however, is not really the problem, but rather a sometimes unfortunate byproduct of a poor pace. After all, a quickly-paced game with lots of action is enjoyable for a much longer time. Of course, improving the pace of game will likely shorten games, as well, but that is not the goal. No one necessarily wants to make baseball a shorter game PERIOD, they just recognize that a long game due to down time isn’t good for anyone.
- To that end, some of the proposed changes you’ve been hearing about lately include 1) raising the strike zone (artificially creating more balls-in-play/action), 2) adding various time limits for instant replay, and 3) eliminating the need of four pitches for an intentional walk. Unfortunately (well, depending on your position), those changes aren’t likely to make it by Opening Day.
- On that first change, raising the strike zone, Manfred has some interesting thoughts. Namely, he implied that the only reason the strike zone is as low as it is now is because it was lowered in the past specifically to get umpires to call the low strike (that they reused to call previously, despite its accuracy). But after Sandy Alderson revamped the entire umpire game (through younger umpires and improved technology), the new (now current) era of umpires are calling a more accurate zone. So, the Commissioner suggests, raising the strike zone would really be like a return to normalcy, as opposed to an overall change.
- For my part, I can understand what he’s saying and even agree that it’s accurate, but don’t really see why that matters. Frankly, returning to how it was, isn’t much of an argument. If it’ll be better for the game, tell us why, and we’ll assess that position. If the logic is there, we’ll probably agree.
- On the idea that everyone loves to hate – starting the 10th inning with a runner on second base – Manfred has some great news: there are not plans to do it in the Major Leagues any time soon (if ever). Instead, Manfred suggests that the rule will be implemented at the lowest levels of the sport (i.e. Rookie Ball), in part because “there is merit to expediting extra-innings run-scoring at organized baseball’s lowest level and no harm in seeing how it affects play.” In other words, MLB will get some data, but they’ll also prevent minor leaguers from having to pitch too much/play out of position/etc. That, I can agree with. Whether MLB was floating it out there to examine fans’ reactions or not, it appears they’re not planning on bringing it to the Majors anytime soon.
- Manfred is going to Korea and Japan to help promote the World Baseball Classic: “those countries show tremendous support and interest in this event, and we need to make sure we get the same kind of interest and support in the United States.” The first step towards renewing interest in the event is making sure the U.S. fields a competitive, interesting team. Remember, there were rumors in the past that this could be the final WBC if it isn’t successful. So be sure to tune in, because you could save it with your participation.
- Manfred stands by his discipline of the Cardinals as a severe enough punishment, saying, “[T]he Cardinals in the amateur Draft will have the least pool money available and their pool will be $2 million less than the club right above them. There is no club in Major League Baseball that would like to find themselves in that position.” That’s correct that no team would want to be in that position, but this line of defense completely ignores that the largest individual chunk of the Cardinals’ bonus pool was already lost to them by virtue of signing Dexter Fowler. Before the punishment, the Cardinals’ pool was just $3.9 million, the second smallest in baseball. By this logic, they’d already punished themselves more severely than Manfred did. Everyone will move on from this and get over, but it’s difficult to argue that the punishment was not weak.
- MLB is trying to appeal to a younger audience and recognizes the problems failing presents over the long term.
- He did mention that MLB has come to agreements with the regional sports networks of 27 markets to have in-market live streaming this season. “I think that’s a really important way for particularly younger fans to enjoy our games on an important platform,” Manfred said. No kidding. I’ll add that MLB is most likely not the force at play here (or rather, in the past), limiting in-market streaming. So it’s nice to see them push to make this possible, even if 2017 seems a little late for these sort of improvements.
- On the Kushner family’s bid for the Marlins (you can read more about that background here), Manfred is quoted, “Our role in controlled interest transfers is to approve those transfers once a deal has been struck,” Manfred said. “Because there’s no final deal that has been submitted to us, we’ve had limited involvement in that process.”
- Manfred covers many other topics including the Florida upgrades and actually implementing many of the rule changes that have been proposed, so be sure to head to ESPN and/or MLB.com to catch up with the latest from the man in charge.