Commissioner Rob Manfred pregame interview

Commissioner Rob Manfred pregame interview

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Pat (Courtney) promised me if I ran around during the Wild Card games and Division Series, that I wouldn't have to do press conferences here. It turned out he was a liar, so we can mark that settled, OK?

Q. Walk us through the decision to move the game time with FOX. And what your expectations are for tonight?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Virtually every senior FOX network official was here last night. Probably a bit of testimony to the significance of this particular World Series. We'd all been watching the weather all day. We had an impromptu meeting in the middle of the day. FOX, to its credit, indicated that they were flexible on the start of the game, on the time that we would start. Once we knew we had that flexibility from our broadcast partner, we spoke to both teams. We thought the key decision was to either make it during the game last night or just go at 8:08 today and see what happened.

We talked to both clubs. Everybody thought given what the forecast looked like then, and in fact, still looks like tonight, that it was best to go with 7:08. We thought it was important that the clubs both know when they left the ballpark last night what time we'd be going today. We also thought it was important for fans that were in the ballpark that we could notify them of the game change while they were still in the stadium, and for our television audience that we could announce a change in the game of the game during last night's broadcast.

So everything came together literally in about -- from the first word spoken to the decision being announced, it was about 17 minutes, which is pretty good. It went quickly.

Q. To your point, that seems to suggest a level of dialogue and collaboration that wasn't even possible a few years ago?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Well, you know, that's effectively a comment on something before. I will say this, that I don't want to make -- let me finish that sentence. One of the things that we've tried to do, Bob Bowman, Tony Petitti, me, is work more closely with our broadcast partners to the extent that we are able to do this quickly last night. And you see it in other places.

I mean, for example, during the broadcast last night you were probably in the ballpark, didn't see it. But there were commercial breaks that were sponsored where FOX went to the studio for analysis. That's FOX responding to us, trying to be a better partner, trying to make their broadcast better for our benefit. We hope that we'll be able to continue to work with them in that positive way. It's not just FOX. It's ESPN, Turner as well.

Q. Where are the labor talks at this point? You had expressed hope at one point to have a deal sometime by the end of the World Series, or do you think it will take a little longer?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: They're in New York, the labor talks, actually. Look, what I've tried to say, and I've tried to be reasonably consistent on this, there are certain natural deadlines that kind of flow around the end of the World Series and then through the expiration date of the agreement on December 1st. Each of the last couple of times we've either gotten it done during the World Series or a few days afterwards. I remain optimistic that we're going to be in that same window in terms of getting it done.

Q. Do you see it going beyond the World Series?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: I mean, it depends on how long the World Series goes, so that's a difficult prediction to make. I think, all I can say is it's hard to put a timetable on a negotiation. I remain confident that we're going to be in that window that I've defined.

Q. The NFL's TV ratings have been terrible this season, and I know you had a good number last night. That was a gratuitous shot. I know you had a good number last night, but just how mindful are you of the TV ratings of your jewel events, in particular, as it becomes more challenging to keep those numbers up?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Well, the NFL situation, that's Roger's issue, not mine, and I am scrupulous about not commenting on other sports. But we pay attention to our ratings, as imperfect as they are, and I have said this publicly, I don't think they are the only measure or even the most important measure of a sport's popularity.

Having said that, we pay attention to them. We are very, very pleased with last night's rating. We define our postseason challenge as finding narratives that takes our tremendous season-long, local audiences, and draws them into the postseason, even if their team is not there in the postseason.

I think that the narrative surrounding 68 years in Cleveland and 108 years in Chicago is exactly the recipe that we need to take that tremendous local fan interest that goes on all season long and draws it into the postseason. And the rating last night was a first indication that that narrative is going to be powerful.

Q. For an update on the Tampa Bay situation from your perspective? Are you encouraged or discouraged by where that stands stadium-wise and market-wise?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: I talk to Stu Sternberg regularly for updates on the stadium situation. I remain positive about the prospects of the stadium, derivative of the fact that Stu is positive about the prospects. I think both Oakland and Tampa are issues that need to be addressed and resolved. They are really important. I think both Tampa and Oakland are Major League markets, and we need Major League-quality facilities in those two markets.

Q. Is there any sense of a timeframe you're going to put on Stu? He's said at some point there would be direction from Major League Baseball.

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Yeah, look, his timetable's a little different because of his lease situation. I don't see me in a position of making an immediate timetable or putting a timetable out there immediately, because we're far enough away from the end of the lease.

Q. Talking about organizing ballgames which could be exhibition games or regular season games, it has been reported that the talks of the games in London have advanced. Can you say something about that and also about some other plans in terms of playing ballgames in foreign countries?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: With respect to the specifics of any location, London, Japan, those are things that we're discussing with the MLBPA right now, and I don't like to talk publicly about things that are at the bargaining table. What I will say is I think it is imperative that our sport continue to develop a broader international footprint. It is the way that the media landscape is going to evolve, attracting international audiences is going to be absolutely crucial. I think it's an area where we need to continue to focus. Our players need to be prepared to go to different countries and play, because I think it's crucial to building the popularity of the game in other countries.

Q. I just want to get an update on how you feel about the state of the preparations for the WBC in the spring? And how important is the WBC long-term, even with baseball possibly returning to the Olympics?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Well, I am encouraged about the preparations for the WBC. We had a very positive meeting with ownership two days ago about commitment to the WBC, and support for the event is absolutely unanimous among ownership. We spent a lot of time drilling down on the details of that support, what the clubs need from us and what we need from the clubs in terms of support, and it was a really positive, positive meeting.

Joe Torre, who is acting as the GM of the American team, and Jim Leyland who is going to be our manager, are hard at work. Early indications are we're going to have the best US Team ever. In terms of the teams from other countries, we know there are a number of them that are going to be really, really strong. So I think we're going to have the best WBC ever. And given the difficulties associated with playing Major League players in the Olympics, I think it's important for baseball to continue to have a premier international event. We need to work hard to make sure that the WBC is that event.

Q. What's the status of the weather and the game tonight?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: The forecast for tonight is that we should have a very playable window. The additional hour, as a result of moving up the game time, should be helpful. It looks like rain that could be problematic will be 11 o'clockish, okay, to give us obviously a long window between 7:08 and then. We're hopeful that we can get the whole game in.

Obviously, we do everything we can to avoid an interrupted game, but we're hopeful we'll be able to play this one without interruption.

Q. Do you think the Indians being in the World Series has changed or heightened the Chief Wahoo discussion at all?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: You know, I've said what I want to say about Chief Wahoo. Obviously when a team is in the World Series, there is a spotlight on that team. Everything about that team attracts more attention, and I think that's probably the case with respect to the logo issue.