MLB will continue work toward making game more attractive to fans
By Paul Hagen
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Improving pace of play remains a priority, Commissioner Rob Manfred said Friday, and collaboration is the key to making progress in that crucial area.
"[That's] an issue that we need to be focused on. And the 'we' there is players, owners, umpires -- everyone who is invested in this game," Manfred said, speaking at the conclusion of the quarterly Owners Meetings at The Breakers resort.
"It's going to be an ongoing [process]. I don't think there's a magic bullet that is going to come one year and that's going to be the solution to pace of play. It's going to be an ongoing effort to make sure our game moves along in the way that is most attractive to our fans."
Manfred noted that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement "contains a provision on playing-rule changes. It contemplates an ongoing conversation during the term of the agreement about playing-rule changes" that are now being discussed. One item that could come up in negotiations with the Major League Baseball Players Association, for example, is a clock for pitchers.
"More to follow," Manfred said. "I think our players understand the importance of making our game as appealing as possible."
Another big topic of conversation during the news conference was the change that gives home-field advantage in the in the World Series to the team with the best regular-season record instead of the league that wins the All-Star Game.
For years, the argument against rewarding the team with the better record to have home-field advantage in the Fall Classic was that it could create logistical nightmares with travel and lodging. And that's still a worry.
"Nothing's changed," Manfred said. "We're prepared to take a little risk. Look, it is difficult to do. Particularly in major cities, you can be in situations where it's difficult -- if not impossible -- to get what you'd really like to have in terms of hotel arrangements.
"[But] it's not ideal to have a 103-win team not to have home-field advantage," he said. "What weight do you put on what? I always come down on the side of wanting the best, most competitive set of rules for the play of the game on the field as opposed to did you have exactly the hotel room that you hoped to have."
Manfred isn't worried that this will remove the incentive for players to try to win the All-Star Game. For one thing, the All-Stars will be competing for a pool of money, with the winners receiving a larger share.
"But in general, I'm a believer that when our players go out on the field that they want to win, whether it's in the All-Star Game or any other game," Manfred added. "It really is not a major source of concern for me."
Other items of note
• Major League Baseball is monitoring President Donald Trump's immigration policies. "Obviously, our foremost concern is that players that are under contract with our organizations be able to come and go," Manfred said. "But as of right now, the countries that have been mostly affected are not places we have players."
At the same time, the Commissioner remains committed to growing the sport internationally. "The international play plan was one of the highest priorities in the new Basic Agreement," he said.
• Manfred couldn't comment about the ongoing investigation about an incident last October involving Mets pitcher Jeurys Familia and his wife, Bianca Rivas, other than to say that he expected to make a ruling well before Opening Day, so that both the player and team would know the result in advance of the regular season.
Manfred also said he's satisfied with the way MLB's domestic abuse policy, which was put in place in 2015, has worked so far.
"I do understand that we have largely had offseason incidents. And that's helpful, because it gives you time to complete an investigation," he said. "I understand that we could get into situations that are more difficult in-season. But in general, we're really pleased with the way it's worked so far."
• The Commissioner also announced that MLB has reached agreements with 27 of the 30 regional sports networks to allow live in-market streaming of games. Negotiations with the Dodgers, Orioles and Nationals continue.
Paul Hagen is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.