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).
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on Thursday "dismissed speculation that the upcoming World Baseball Classic will be the final one," insisting that MLB's commitment to the event "remains strong," according to Shi Davidi of SPORTSNET.ca. Manfred reiterated that the 16-team tournament "still has untapped potential and underlined his desire to build it into a premier sporting event." Since debuting in '06, the WBC has "faced resistance from club executives, managers, coaches and player-development staff reluctant to see their players take part in the event." Concerns about injury and the "inability to keep direct track of players have prompted that, leading to subtle pressure against participation." Players have also been "reluctant to buy in to the concept as well, leading to often depleted rosters." Manfred: "The rosters are clearly better this time than they’ve ever been in the past. We made progress on that. We need to continue to make progress on it. Owner commitment ... is crucial to making sure that baseball operations people make the best players available to play in the event." Davidi noted the timing of the event is a "challenge, as one past participant described playing games of such intensity so early in the spring as 'brutal.'" Players "tend to enjoy the experience, but questions remain as to what time of year it might face less resistance" (SPORTSNET.ca, 2/16). Manfred said, "I would like to get the WBC to the point where everyone views it as a premier international event. I'm going to both Korea and Japan. One of the reasons that I'm making that trip is 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" (MLB.com, 2/16).
GOING DUTCH: Orioles 2B Jonathan Schoop will represent the Netherlands in the WBC, and in Baltimore, Eduardo Encina writes the Curacao native "takes special pride in representing his home country." Schoop "hopes another strong showing" for the team will "create more opportunities for the next group of young players" in Curacao. Schoop: "For us, it’s important so we can send more scouts to Curacao, so we can sign (more players) so their dreams can come true, too. For us to go and represent the country, it’s really nice for everybody that we’re going to go play for the Netherlands." Schoop is one of 14 players "born in Curacao to play" in MLB; nine of those players have debuted since '06 (Baltimore SUN, 2/17).
KV Racing, the IndyCar team co-owned by Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser is shutting down "after 14 years and seven victories," according to the AP. The team formally announced the "long-rumored move" Thursday and has "sold its equipment to fellow team owner Ricardo Juncos, who plans to run in the IndyCar Series this season." KV Racing won the '13 Indy 500 with Tony Kanaan and had four wins over the last three seasons with Sebastien Bourdais. However, the team "had not hired a driver" for '17 after Bourdais left KV for Dale Coyne Racing, fueling "speculation that it was shuttering the operation" (AP, 2/16). NBCSPORTS.com's Tony DiZinno noted KV "barely answered the bell" for '16, with Bourdais and sponsor Hydroxycut being "announced the week" of the Phoenix Int'l Raceway test. KV’s future had been a "talking point throughout this offseason" (NBCSPORTS.com, 2/16).