Manfred also discusses managerial diversity as Meetings close
By Paul Hagen
NEW YORK -- Some players have received calls. Others have gotten letters or a word from their club's communications departments.
The messages, Commissioner Rob Manfred said on Thursday at the conclusion of the quarterly Owners Meetings at Major League Baseball's headquarters, are to "re-emphasize the significance of the pace-of-game initiatives."
Those changes were instituted last season, and the early results were dramatic. But those gains have evaporated to an extent in the early weeks of this season.
"Like is often the case, as you get deeper into the season, you lose focus a little bit," Manfred said. "We're not happy with the early returns this year. Pace of the game is an issue that requires constant vigilance and focus. We've made some ongoing efforts to regain that focus."
The Commissioner said there are some hopeful signs. Tuesday and Wednesday were the two best back-to-back days in terms of average time of games this season.
Pace of play is often linked with instant replay, and the number of reviews has increased this season. Manfred said he's at least willing to consider putting a time limit on the process.
"We haven't reached the conclusion that we have a time problem," Manfred said. "It's been literally seconds. But if we do, I am open to that idea.
"We're looking really hard at the number of replays we've had. We're paying very, very close attention to it. We're also looking very, very hard at how long the replays are taking. It's not that we don't want to get it right. We do want to get it right. It is that those issues have a significant impact on pace of game. And I do think it's possible -- possible -- that we'll make adjustments to the system to make sure we're getting the calls that matter right and that we're not overdoing it in terms of the amount of replay we're subjecting the fans to."
Manfred touched on a number of other subjects during his session with the media.
One issue that was heavily discussed this week was the ongoing negotiations with the Major League Baseball Players Association over a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Commissioner didn't discuss details, but he was upbeat in his assessment of how the process is going.
"I think they've gotten off to a great start," Manfred said. "Twelve meetings at this point in the calendar is a really, really good schedule. I think they not only have met but developed a plan for those meetings that has allowed them to get a lot of issues out on the table. And that's how the beginning of the process works. You've got to get everything out there before you can figure out how you can put the pieces together.
"I'm a labor optimist by nature. I'm hopeful that we will find a way to make an agreement on the calendar we've used the last three times, make an agreement in a way that's good for our fans."
When the Braves dismissed manager Fredi Gonzalez this week, MLB was left with two minority managers, Dusty Baker of the Nationals and Dave Roberts of the Dodgers. Manfred reaffirmed baseball's commitment to diversity at all levels.
"Managers are a very difficult area for us," Manfred noted. "There are only 30 of them. They turn over frequently. That's the nature of the game. It's always going to be the nature of the game. So you're going to have periods of time where these numbers ebb and flow. Remember, if you go from four out of 30 diverse managers to two out of 30, that's a big change. But two guys getting fired is not a big deal in baseball. So that's a tough area for us.
"We have a series of programs in place, the most important of which is the new Pipeline Program that we've instituted here at the Commissioner's Office. The purpose of the program is to help minority candidates a.) get hired at clubs and b.) have career paths at clubs that make them qualified to be general managers, field managers, whatever they aspire to be."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.