MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Manfred champions harmony between MLB, union

Manfred champions harmony between MLB, union

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- After baseball's players and owners wrapped up a new five-year labor deal last week, they did something that at one point would have been unthinkable.

They agreed to keep talking.

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"In the old days," Commissioner Rob Manfred said on Monday during a question-and-answer session at the George Washington University School of Business, "back when I started, we'd finish a big basic agreement, and it would be like, 'I've had enough of you. I'll see you in five years.' That was the end of it. Nothing moved during the term of the agreement."

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One thing the two sides have learned during 21 years of labor peace is that everyone benefits from pulling on the same end of the rope.

At some point in the near future, the two sides -- MLB chief negotiator Dan Halem and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark -- will sit back down to discuss roster sizes and pace-of-play matters.

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Manfred said the two sides seemed on their way to agreeing to expand regular-season rosters from 25 to 26 players and decrease September roster limits from 40 to 28.

In the end, both sides stepped back. One of the concerns owners had was that giving every team an additional relief pitcher could mean more pitching changes and longer games.

Details of the CBA deal

Among the apparent concerns of players was that a 26-man roster would take away playing time from some players.

"Everybody knows players get paid based in part on the quantity of their performance," Manfred said. "The way it was ultimately resolved -- and this, to me, is the best part of the story -- we decided to stay at 25. But Tony Clark has already expressed a desire to talk about this issue during the term of this agreement and maybe work something out.

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"I think this issue is an example of the maturation of our labor relations. We will revisit the topic. I think it's certainly possible that during the term we will end up changing this rule without the time pressure of the overall Basic Agreement."

As for pace of play, Manfred said: "Our judgment was that the best way to address it was during this midterm process, as opposed to cluttering what is already 450 printed pages that needs to be negotiated.

Manfred on pace-of-play rules

"I hope people don't take it as a lack of commitment on our part on this issue. I think pace of play remains an issue we are very concerned about and hope to make some progress on in the coming years."

Manfred touched on an array of other topics during the one-hour appearance, including:

The need for new ballparks for the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics

"Both markets do need Major League-quality facilities, and they need them on a realistic timetable," Manfred said. "Every team in baseball, [in coming] to Oakland, pays, in terms of inconvenience and the state of that facility. I think Oakland is much more likely to be dramatically more appealing in 10 years than it is dramatically less appealing as a market. I've done everything humanly possible to encourage the owners of the A's to get something done in Oakland. It's a big media market. We don't have that many media markets that are better. I'd really like to get it done in Oakland."

Manfred on upgrading stadiums

As for the Rays' situation, Manfred said, "All professional sports have had their challenges in Florida. Having said that, there is a good TV market in Tampa. I think getting not only a new facility but a facility that is more appropriately located within the Tampa-St. Pete market would be good.

"Ultimately, there has to be an endgame. If, in fact, there's not a site or there's not a financial arrangement that's viable and we become convinced of that, our rules allow for the possibility of relocation. At that point of desperation, it's possible a team would be allowed to relocate."

Diversity

Manfred said baseball was committed to giving more African-Americans a chance to play baseball or to work in Major League front offices. The Commissioner said that programs in place were responsible for 20 percent of first-round Draft choices over the last four years being African-American.

Manfred on youth academies

"That's far better than our current eight-percent number in the big leagues," Manfred said. "Almost every one of these kids touches one of those Major League Baseball programs in some way."

Manfred said MLB is also helping to prepare African-Americans for front-office interviews and working to create a pipeline to train and promote African-Americans inside the sport.

International play

Manfred said he eventually wants at least one expansion franchise on foreign soil (Canada or Mexico) and that he's also committed to growing the game around the world.

Manfred on globalization

"I would like to have sustained international play before I'm done being Commissioner," Manfred said. "It could be another team in Canada. It could be a team in Mexico, which I think would be a huge step forward for this industry.

"We need to make sure that through international events -- two- or three-game series -- we play different places and make appropriate media arrangements, like the one in China, where we have seen a really interesting response to baseball content in a country with no baseball culture to speak of."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @richardjustice. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.