Oct. 7 Commissioner Rob Manfred pregame interview

Oct. 7 Commissioner Rob Manfred pregame interview

Q. There was a play last night that you see every so often where the runner slides over the bag, comes off for a split second and the fielder holds the tag and then replay shows he was off the bag. Curious what you think about that, the spirit of the rule. And if it can even be addressed in any meaningful way?

COMMISSIONER ROB MANFRED: It's interesting, I'm kind of proud of that play, despite the fact that I get asked about it all the time. The reason I'm sort of proud of it is when we were putting the replay system together we actually realized, in advance, that this was going to be a problem.

And, you know, hats off to our baseball operations people, Joe Torre, Chris Marinak, that worked so hard on the system. We talked about it and the conclusion we came to is if you're going to introduce replay as an element of the game on the field, you can't tell the replay officials to ignore something, right? So even though it was never called, right, prior to replay, when they see that in New York, the instruction is you have to call what you see. And we feel that's crucial to the integrity of the replay process. And it's just one of those things that players are going to have to learn to adjust to over time.

Q. Is there any element of replay that you believe needs to be tweaked?

COMMISSIONER ROB MANFRED: Well, I think the constant focus from our perspective in New York is on the time associated with replay. I just looked at the end-of-the-year statistics and they actually are very positive in terms of the average time of replay being down, the number of replays over 3 minutes is down. The number of replays under 60 seconds is actually up significantly. And we feel like those are really positive trends for us, but we will be looking, again, in the offseason for ways to move every aspect of that process along, make it as quick as we can possibly make it.

For me, the default is always technology. The better the technology is the faster the replays go. We now have a vastly increased number of super slow motion cameras at first base. Those bang, bang calls at first plate used to take a long time. They take a lot less time when you have super slow motion. It's those sorts of changes that I think we need to continue to focus on.

Q. I'm sure you have the numbers on this issue, as well, but it seemed like there were more guys who stepped out of the box this year. That's just my observation. I don't know if that's true or false. But do you have the numbers on that, were there more --

COMMISSIONER ROB MANFRED: Yeah, look, let me say it this way, I think that we slid backwards a little bit on the issue of pace of play. Last year the batter's box rule was new. It was fresh in the player's mind. It was fresh in the umpires' mind, everybody was focused on it. But a year goes by and things backslid just a little bit. It is one of the reasons that we have been so interested in the idea of additional clocks on the field. The great thing about a clock is it's there, it's there every day, it's a constant reminder to the people that play the game.

Our experience in the Minor Leagues has been we don't have a lot of clock violations, but we do have play that moves along because players are constantly reminded of the need to move things along.

Q. On the idea of clocks, would there be a possibility with replay that perhaps you would cap a time limit, maybe perhaps like 90 seconds, and if it's still inconclusive, you just go with the call on the field?

COMMISSIONER ROB MANFRED: Yeah, 90 seconds is around average. That's probably a little short. You know, the ones that attract a lot of attention are the 2 1/2 or 3-minute ones. And I do think it's possible that at some point we would give consideration to a cap.

I think the theory there, and, you know, we'd want the data to support this, is if it takes that long, it's probably inconclusive. But we now have enough data over two seasons to figure out whether that assertion is actually correct, if we decide to explore going in that direction.

Q. As far as diversity hirings go, you've talked a lot about the Pipeline Program, the merits of that over the long term. If you're a Triple-A manager right now or a Major League coach who is black or Hispanic, what is the implication there for those guys? Is there a suggestion that perhaps we have to look down the road but what we have right now isn't adequate?

COMMISSIONER ROB MANFRED: You know, really to the contrary, and maybe we haven't communicated as well as we should on this issue. The first push in terms of diversity in baseball operations positions, both off the field, GM, Assistant GM, and field managers, was to make sure that the qualified candidates, and there are lots of qualified candidates in the game, had an opportunity to be interviewed for those games. That's why Commissioner Selig put the rule requiring a minority to be interviewed in place in the first instance.

We have tried to build on that rule in two ways: One, by providing additional support to those candidates who are selected to be interviewed, both in terms of, you know, their preparation for their interview; but also in terms of working with the clubs to make sure that they've identified the best fit for the job that they're looking to fill.

The Pipeline Program is long-term investment. We just looked around at our entry-level positions and said, you know, we need to do a better job in those positions, as well.

So I see the two of them working together. I don't see the focus on entry-level positions in any way suggesting that we don't have qualified people in the game today that should be interviewed for those jobs and hopefully have an opportunity to get those jobs.

Q. Just curious, last week you spoke in regards to 2003 with David Ortiz and the possible tests. You set off a frenzy in Boston. Would you ever put out an official statement on that? How do you look at that when it comes to David, because it will come up and it comes up every time his Hall of Fame career is talked about?

COMMISSIONER ROB MANFRED: Well, official statement? I said what I say.

Let me say a couple of things about what happened in Boston. First of all, it was one of those instances where I know I was not breaking new ground. As a matter of fact, we put out a statement at the time of the original story in the "New York Times" that contained all of the factual information that I relied on when I spoke in Boston. My friend Michael Weiner did a press conference with David, said exactly the same things that I said up in Boston. I don't know whether I had a captive audience or I had a particularly articulate day that day, but it seemed like it attracted a lot of attention.

But I did not regard it to be a fundamental shift in what baseball's position was with respect to those survey tests.

Q. You that day said that the test samples were destroyed. When did that happen? Was there ever a window where the ambiguity here could have been avoided? Where there could have been a definitive understanding?

COMMISSIONER ROB MANFRED: Well, there was clearly a window somewhere. I can't tell you exactly when they were destroyed, I just don't know off the top of my head.

Those samples, as you may recall, were the subject of some considerable dispute, right? There were subpoenas and court orders, you know, as to what could be done, what could be destroyed, how they had to be handled. But there was clearly some window there.

I think the problem with that in retrospect is this, we -- and the "we" in that sentence is baseball and the MLBPA -- were fundamentally committed to the idea that those survey test results were supposed to be anonymous. So the window where we could have gone back and done some retesting or elimination of ambiguity was at a period of time that we fervently hoped that the commitment that was originally made to the players that they would stay private or confidential would be met.

Q. Is it safe to say that, this comes up every time, since you had the one-game playoff, people talk about the fairness, is it safe to say that that, in your eyes, is not going anywhere anytime soon?

COMMISSIONER ROB MANFRED: Yeah, I'm really comfortable. And more importantly, I think the owners are actually really comfortable with the playoff format that we have. The one-game knockout game for the Wild Cards has served this industry really well in two respects; it keeps people playing hard, not only to get a Wild Card berth, but to avoid being in that Wild Card game.

We had six really meaningful games on the last Sunday of a 183-day season, that's a great thing for this sport. And I don't think you can ask, for our fans, for better drama than you had in the two Wild Card games. I was in both Toronto and New York for the games live, atmosphere in the ballpark was phenomenal, they were really well-played games. I think it helps us get our playoff season off to a really fast start.

Q. Could you foresee the basic structure of the new CBA being different for the large revenue teams than it has been in these recent seasons?

COMMISSIONER ROB MANFRED: Look, I don't like to talk about the substance of collective bargaining outside the room until we get an agreement. I guess what I -- the one thing I would say is this, I think over the last three negotiations we have found a framework that has served the sport very well in terms of promoting competitive balance, promoting financial stability, allowing our players to continue to earn higher and higher salaries. And within that framework there's a lot of ways to turn the dials to produce adjustments and change that need to be made. And I think that framework will prove to be durable over time.

Q. As a writer, but also as a dad, coach, what do you see as MLB's role in promoting the game to the younger kids, where they have more options now than they've ever had? Lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports. Where do you see MLB's role?

COMMISSIONER ROB MANFRED: I think it is incumbent upon Major League Baseball to be active in that space and make sure that baseball is as competitive as it possibly can be, and what you point out is an increasingly competitive environment.

What we have done is we have tried to make really good partnerships with some of the key players in the youth space, Little League, Cal Ripken Baseball, Pony League, to make sure that we are getting to as many kids as we possibly can.

Secondly, we've tried to focus on underserved areas, the Urban Youth Academies, the MLB academies that we have now six up and coming, three more on the drawing board, the RBI program, the Elite Invitational that we held down in Vero Beach where we had about 150 kids around the country for ten days working with almost exclusively former Major League players as coaches. We can't occupy that space, but we need to be a really good partner and a driving force in that space with the youth groups that are out there doing good work every day.

Q. There's been some conversation about changing the dimensions of the strike zone at different points in order to stimulate offense. Is that something you view as kind of an open area for dialogue? And in light of kind of the home run boom, does that alter the incentive to explore such a subject?

COMMISSIONER ROB MANFRED: Well, let me take them one at a time. I do view it as a topic that is open for discussion.

You know, technology is a great thing, but it sometimes produces results that need to be managed. And I think the strike zone is an example of that. We have used the best technology to try to make our umpires call a more consistent strike zone, consistent umpire to umpire, and consistent with the rule book.

And one of the results of that effort is it has moved the strike zone down. You know the strike zone is not the knee, it's the hollow of the knee, actually, underneath. And as we've used technology, umpires have responded and they've become more and more prone to call that low strike. Those of you who have been around the game a long time know that low strike can be hard to hit.

It is something that's worth talking about in terms of trying to make sure that the game we put on the field has as much action and is as good for our fans as it possibly can be.