Manfred: Umpire protest violated CBA

MLB Commissioner seeks to address concerns in meeting with umpires

Manfred: Umpire protest violated CBA

DETROIT -- Three days after umpires wore white wristbands to protest remarks made by Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler about umpire Angel Hernandez, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said he hopes to de-escalate the situation in a meeting with umpires.

Manfred was making a previously scheduled visit to Detroit to see Comerica Park, meet with Tigers president/CEO Chris Ilitch and tour the District Detroit project, including the new Little Caesars Arena.

"I was a little surprised by the umpire protest," he said. "I want to be clear: That protest was a violation of their collective bargaining agreement. We let them know that it was a violation of their collective bargaining agreement and we intended to enforce our rights under that agreement. Fortunately, an agreement to have a meeting, a conversation, diffused the problem before it became more serious. That's good labor relations, in my view.

"It happens. You have little things like this, and I think the best thing you can do is find a way to de-escalate them and have a conversation to address whatever the underlying concern is."

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The Commissioner was asked about the union's comments that is has been an "open season" on umpires.

"I really don't agree with that," he said. "I think whenever you have competitive people, particularly after a game, sometimes people will say things that may merit discipline from the Commissioner's Office. That's always happened in the game. I don't think it's really any different today than it has been in the past."

Kinsler was fined by Major League Baseball for comments about Hernandez. Manager Brad Ausmus said it was the largest fine he has ever seen handed down to a player; ESPN's Buster Olney reported it was $10,000.

While Kinsler voiced his criticism of Hernandez last week, he said repeatedly that he's not in favor of an automated strike zone, a topic that also came up during the Commissioner's press conference.

"As a technological matter, I believe that we will get to the point that balls and strikes can be called real-time by a machine," Manfred said. "There's a separate question as to whether you want to take the human element of a home-plate umpire out of the game. When the technology gets there, I'm sure the owners will have a conversation about whether they want to make that additional move of taking that human element out of the game.

"Right now, we don't have technology that in real time can more accurately call balls and strikes than our human umpires who, let's not forget, get it right about 95 percent of the time."

Other topics during the question-and-answer session:

• While the home-run rate is rising, Manfred said studies have shown that baseballs are not substantially different from past years. "There is nothing that is different about the baseballs," he said. "As a matter, to the extent that there are little ups and downs year to year, the ups and downs would suggest that there should be fewer home runs rather than more. But none of it is statistically significant."

• Major League Baseball continues to study pace of play, including the role of mound meetings, a topic brought up earlier this year by Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander regarding pitchers and catchers concern about sign stealing. "I've had direct complaints from players about sign stealing," Manfred said. "In the context of discussing pace of game, players have made the point that the potential of sign stealing is something that slows the game down when there are men on base. I think, generally, the notion of sign stealing, people regard it to be a form of behavior that we should not tolerate. And certainly if there are, for example, electronic devices involved, we have rules that regulate the use of those devices."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.