The MLBPA is "willing to participate in the shaping of any rule changes" for '18, including the addition of a pitch clock, according to Ken Rosenthal of THE ATHLETIC. Reps from MLB, the MLBPA, Marlins and Nationals met last month in DC, where players "tossed out a number of ideas." Among them was whether the pitch clock must "be 20 seconds between every pitch, as proposed by the commissioner’s office last offseason," or whether it could be "turned off with men on base." The positive tone from both sides is notable considering that just six months earlier MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred had "taken a confrontational stance with the union," noting the CBA "empowered him to implement unilateral changes with a one-year advance notice." Sources said that the union has "yet to make a formal proposal to the commissioner’s office on pace-of-play issues." However, a solution before Spring Training "would be in the best interests of the players, giving them ample time to adjust" for the '18 season. Sources added that a "series of adjustments" through a multiyear rollout is also "possible." Marlins P Brad Ziegler said, "I appreciate their willingness to continue to have a dialogue with us, instead of ramming things down our throats they know we don’t want." Rosenthal reported Manfred’s "open-mindedness ... stems in part from his desire to strike a deal rather than pick a fight with the players" less than one year after reaching a new CBA. Meanwhile, replay is another "area of concern." The average time of review has "dropped to 1 minute, 28 seconds this season," down from 1:36 in '16 and 1:51 in '15. But sources said that both sides are "prepared to scrap a rule, introduced this season, that allows managers 30 seconds to request a replay review." Managers "occasionally take longer, adding even more dead time to the delay" (THEATHLETIC.com, 9/12).
AND WE'RE BACK FROM THE BREAK: Manfred said inning breaks are "something we need to look really hard at" in the future. He said, "We need to at a minimum tighten them up. I think we need to be open to considering changes in our commercial load. Every inning break from a broadcast perspective is an opportunity for a fan to tune away from our game. The shorter those breaks are, the shorter the opportunity for them to turn away" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/10).
Shohei Otani, the "finest baseball player Japan has produced in years," will "enter the posting system this winter and play" in MLB next season, according to Jeff Passan of YAHOO SPORTS. Sources said that MLB and the Nippon Professional Baseball first "need to agree on a new posting system." Sources said that while the current version "caps the posting fee paid to the Japanese team" at $20M, the sides "continue to negotiate new terms and are expected to settle on a new deal before November." The fee is "likely to remain flat, allowing Otani to shop for his preferred team." The process is different than the past, when it was "part of a blind bidding and handcuffed the player" to the MLB team that bid the most. Once the 23-year-old Otani is posted by Nippon Ham, his current team, he will "have a window during which he can choose his new team." The international money will be "treated as a signing bonus," and Otani will sign a minor league contract. Passan writes because Otani will have "signed a minor league deal, he will be subject to MLB’s service rules, which necessitate six full years of time before free agency" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/13). In N.Y., Nicholas Parco writes by "coming to MLB now, the max amount of money Otani will be able to get" is $10.1M. If Otani were to "wait until he was 25 to make the jump, he would be treated as a true free agent." Due to this rule, "basically every team in the league is restricted from outbidding other teams, so it will be a rare case where money won't be the sole factor in a free agent signing with a team" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 9/13). THE RINGER's Zach Kram writes on the open market, a player with Otani’s "talents and potential could easily command nine figures, and perhaps approach" a $200M contract (THERINGER.com, 9/13).
DC-based attorney Cyrus Mehri last night in Dallas "laid out his campaign promises" in his bid to become NFLPA Exec Dir in the "first of a series of town hall meetings in NFL cities," according to Charean Williams of PRO FOOTBALL TALK. Mehri said he has "three major critiques" with the current CBA. He said current NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith "forfeited hundreds of millions of dollars per year" and gave NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a "blank check on discipline." Mehri: "The consequences of that is having a process that doesn’t have independence, doesn’t have checks and balances, that lacks credibility." He called the CBA "horrible for the players," saying a 10-year deal is "pretty much unprecedented in labor agreements." Mehri also said that "revamping the league’s discipline policy is among the initial items on his to-do list." Mehri: "If I’m elected, in the first hundred days, I’m going to sit down with the commissioner and top brass and reform this discipline system, so we’ll have checks and balances for when the 2018 season starts up. My guiding light is this: What’s best for the game?" He added, "The incumbent’s relationship is so poisonous and so contentious (with the NFL) that they can’t be problem-solving, but problem-solving is focusing on prevention of these issues" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 9/13).
CONTENTIOUS TIMES AHEAD: YAHOO SPORTS' Charles Robinson wrote NFL players could "rubber stamp Smith’s standing" as NFLPA Exec Dir in October, "essentially voting to eliminate any elections the following March, when his current three-year term expires." Conversely, players could "vote to allow Smith to be challenged in a March election, opening the door for Mehri (and potentially others) to present opposing platforms and ideas to the current status quo." Given "what’s at stake for the relationship of players and the NFL franchises that employ them, this could be a significant moment that helps determine if there will be NFL football" in September '21. The NFLPA is "in the midst of an arms buildup, working toward amassing a labor war chest of hundreds of millions of dollars." Several players said that the goal is "banking as much" as $500-600M in reserves. That money would "then be used to fund players during a strike -- with an eye toward erasing regular-season games." Some players who expect to still be in the league in '21 said that they are "expecting to see regular-season games lost in the next labor fight." All of that -- the "money, the plans, the seemingly hardened stance -- makes the next vote for the head of the players union fairly important." Whoever gets the nod as the next Exec Dir is "expected to lead the NFLPA through a potential" '21 "labor battle" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/12).
OpTic Gaming has "finalized an investment deal" with a group led by MLB Rangers co-Owner Neil Leibman, according to sources cited by Jacob Wolf of ESPN.com. As a result, the team "acquired the Overwatch League slot in Houston -- where Leibman is based" -- for $20M paid over time. Sources said that OpTic has also "expanded its reach by applying for a spot in the North American League of Legends Championship Series and has advanced to Phase 2 of the application process." Leibman is the second Rangers co-Owner to invest in an esports team and "pursue a slot in the Overwatch League." In August, Rangers board member Kenneth Hersh reportedly invested $35M into Team EnVyUs and obtained rights to an Overwatch League slot in Dallas. Chaney Sports Group "advised on the Leibman deal." Sources said that Overwatch developer Blizzard Entertainment "sought other options for the league" -- including the Rockets -- but "was turned down." Should OpTic be accepted into the LCS, it will have to pay $13M in franchising fees for a "permanent spot in the league" (ESPN.com, 9/12).
In San Diego, Dennis Lin noted the '18 MLB schedule released yesterday did "not include a proposed Mexico City series between the Padres and the Dodgers." An MLB official said that Mexico City games "remain under discussion and could still happen, but the league is not ready to announce them or an official opponent for the Padres." One "possible holdup" is that the construction of the Mexico City Red Devils' new ballpark reportedly has "encountered delays and may not be ready by the start of next season" (SANDIEGOUNIONTRIBUNE.com, 9/12).
TEMPORARY SETBACK: LPGA officials yesterday announced that the Alisports LPGA tournament, "scheduled to be played in Shanghai from Oct. 5-8, has been canceled." LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said that the tournament was unable to successfully "obtain permit approval from the local district government to hold the event." While the "last-minute cancelation is disappointing, currently the plan is for the event to return" in '18 (GOLFDIGEST.com, 9/12).
GRAND CELEBRATION: The PBA will celebrate its 60th anniversary with a variety of special tributes, including a new Go Bowling! PBA 60th Anniversary Classic tournament. The '18 season will see the unveiling of the "60 Most Memorable Moments In PBA History" as part of the PBA's ESPN television schedule beginning on Feb. 4 and concluding on May 13. There will also be a special line of PBA 60th Anniversary merchandise, video highlights of PBA's most memorable moments shared on PBA's YouTube channel as well as Xtra Frame (PBA).