SBD/February 17, 2017/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Manfred Defends Pace-Of-Game Ideas, Says Extra Innings Runner Won't Come To MLB

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Manfred said MLB has never set a goal in terms of optimal game time
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on Thursday "emphatically defended a series of pace-of-game proposals," spending most of his 30-minute press conference at the Grapefruit League media day "pushing a series of potential changes that he hopes will create more action and less dead time," according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. Among the ideas Manfred "endorsed were raising the strike zone, eliminating the intentional walk and finding ways to streamline instant replay." He did not "specify an exact time" on a proposal that would "require managers to decide within 30 seconds whether to challenge a call." However, he said, "Field managers should have a time limit." Manfred also would "like to see 'reasonable limits' on how long umpires in the replay center should study replay angles before making a decision on whether to overturn a call." He defended the minor league experimentation of starting extra innings with a runner on second base, though he said, "We don't expect to ever apply at the major league level." Manfred: "We may learn something that would be helpful moving forward" (ESPN.com, 2/16). He said that rule is "going to be applicable only in the lowest level of Minor League Baseball." Manfred: "A lot of those games are played in high temperatures, there's very small crowds. They’re really developmental activities, and we felt that that rule would bring a quicker end to games. There's really no need in those games to play 18 innings." He said any speculation that policy would ever be implemented in MLB is "misplaced" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 2/17). MLB Network's Ron Darling said, "When we start making these rules, make sure we use them in the minor leagues to see if they work at all. ... Do it in the minor leagues, see if it works there, then ease it in to the Major Leagues" ("MLB Tonight," MLB Network, 2/16).

PACE DIFFERENT FROM ACTUAL TIME: Manfred reiterated on Thursday there is "nothing about baseball that needs to be fixed." Manfred said that "reducing the dead time" is "more important than games' overall length." Manfred: "A quicker pace is good for fans. What we want is a well-paced game with action regardless of time of game" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/17). He added, “We’ve never set a goal in terms of time of game, because time of game is really beyond your control. You can have a three-hour game with a lot of action in it that’s just fine. Our concern has always been pace of game. We're concerned about dead time in the game -- delays, pitchers who don't work quickly, batters getting out of the box. We're going to continue to work hard to eliminate that dead time.” He said the addition of a pitch clock is something many MLB officials "are very high on." Manfred: "It's not going to happen in 2017, but it provides a constant reminder to players of the need to move the game along” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 2/17).

WILLING TO TRY NEW THINGS: In Boston, Evan Drellich writes Manfred "succeeds" in his "open-mindedness" towards rules changes. He is "willing to try new things, and talk about those matters publicly." Manfred should "think over everything." Drellich: "That’s his job. An occasional willingness to think out loud is a positive" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/17).
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