Manfred Says MLB Making "Real Progress" With Pace-Of-Play Rules
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said the league has made "real progress on pace-of-play this year," as the new mound visit rule has "been well received." Manfred, appearing yesterday on "Golic & Wingo," said, "They are a little shorter. More importantly, it moves things along and one thing we never lose track of, I don't think there's been one game where somebody has asserted, 'If I had one more mound visit, I would have won instead of you.'" Manfred said the league is also doing "much better on our inning breaks without impacting our commercial inventory." He said, "We were running 45 seconds longer than the commercial load and we've picked that pace up as well. All of this conversation has to take place against the backdrop of one thing; our game is fundamentally sound." MLB has "really competitive people trying to win every day and that competitive fire drives change on the field." Manfred: "You get the next smartest guy with the new idea, the better analysis of data, and it drives change on the field. You can't stop those people from being creative, so the alternative that is available is, once in a while you have to step back and say, 'The game is changing out there, do we have to do something from a rule perspective to rein that change in?'" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 7/16).
FRONT OFFICE ISSUES: In DC, Barry Svrluga noted MLBPA Exec Dir Tony Clark has "strong concerns about the way the sport is being managed from ownership to the dugout," concerns he expects to be a part of the conversation with MLB during a period of "increasing tension between players and ownership." As the All-Star Game comes to DC, baseball "finds itself at a point worth of self-examination." There is "less action -- fewer balls in play -- than ever before," and "perhaps not coincidentally, attendance is down." Clark, however, voiced "less concern over baseball's well-documented shortcomings during the window of an individual game." Clark said, "There's nothing wrong with the game." Though Svrluga noted the MLBPA and MLB have a CBA in place through the '21 season, both sides "seem to be girding for a major fight when the current deal runs out." Clark: "This isn't a player problem. It's reflective, I believe, of very deliberate business decisions. ... What it appears that we are seeing in that regard is teams withdrawing from that competition for seasons at a time. it becomes challenging when it's more than a couple of teams that are going that route" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/16).
SHIFT IN PHILOSOPHY? Manfred yesterday during his annual Town Hall address to fans said that he was not certain a ban on extreme defensive shifts would necessarily produce an on-field reduction in the three true outcomes of strikeouts, walks and home runs. MLB’s Competition Committee, the MLBPA and a variety of other entities have discussed various ideas to inject more action into games and more balls in play, but have not settled on a specific course of action. “The question is what sort of rule will produce the outcome that people are looking for,” Manfred said. “In other words, is there a change we can make with respect to defensive alignment that would get away from the three true outcomes? I’m not sure there is. I think it’s something where we need to discuss more. ... Right now, players have made a decision that the home run, trying to hit it over the shift, is more valuable than the hit to the opposite field. Even if you move players back to the other side of the diamond, it’s unclear that they’re going to change their approach at the plate" (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).