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Manfred on pitch clocks, scheduling, expansion and Rose

Jul 14, 2015, 5:23 PM EDT

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CINCINNATI — In the six months since he became baseball’s 10th commissioner, Rob Manfred hasn’t been afraid to confront the sport’s time-tested traditions and embrace the idea of change.

And Manfred continued the trend Tuesday during his first-ever All-Star Q&A session with members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, offering up thoughts on pitch clocks, expanded instant replay, shortening the 162-game schedule, adding more teams to the postseason and expanding into new markets.

The commissioner championed the idea of a 20-second pitch clock being added to baseball in future seasons, citing the positive effect it had in improving pace of play in the Arizona Fall League and this year at the Class AA and AAA levels.

“Interestingly, that experiment not only was successful in terms of the pace of the game,” Manfred said. “It was successful in educating those people involving in the process who — for want of a better term — were anti-clock. They went, they saw games, they saw the way the games played along. … We are really encouraged by the results of that experiment, in terms of how it moves the game along. Now, how quickly that experiment, or whether that experiment, migrates to the big-league level, is going to be a product of conversations with the MLBPA. But we remain positive about the 20-second clock as something that could be useful to the game at the big-league level.”

MLB officials may be embracing the idea of a pitch clock, but union chief Tony Clark offered some staunch opposition Tuesday during his own session with BBWAA writers, suggesting this change is far from a certainty.

“Hear me very clear on this one,” Clark said. “When you add the third deck in the major leagues, and you add all the other moving pieces tied to the major-league game, the idea that a particular rule in Double-A or Triple-A or Single-A or the Fall League … will automatically work in the big leagues is not true. The game is fundamentally different. The game is fundamentally faster. There are more considerations that need to be made at the major-league level than at the Single-A level or the Double-A level or the Triple-A level.”

Improved pace of play has been a hallmark of Manfred’s first six months in office, and the new commissioner cited plenty of examples Tuesday of the effect baseball’s new rules have already had. The average time of game is down 9 minutes through the season’s first half, down to 2 hours, 53 minutes, the largest decrease since 1965.

Manfred also discussed the possibility of speeding up the baseball season, with recent calls to move back from a 162-game regular season to the 154-game slate the sport had until 1961. That change will be easier said than done, though, with club owners unlikely to give away gates and revenue just for the sake of a shorter season.

“It’s a huge economic issue,” Manfred said. “If you were going to try to do something in that area … usually if you have a big economic issue where you’re giving up revenue, you’ve got to think up something that is offsetting in the other direction. And the one obvious possibility is making a change in terms of the playoffs. I’m not suggesting we’re anywhere on either of those topics, but I do think if you shorten the season, there will be pressure to look at the postseason as well.”

Manfred said there are no current plans for expansion but acknowledged he does see the sport adding new franchises again “down the road,” and admitted he has a list of viable cities. Montreal has moved back into the news recently after hosting a pair of highly successful exhibition weekends the last two springs, and while Manfred said he believes the former home of the Nationals can be a successful baseball market again, it will require a new stadium and evidence of support for far more than two exhibition games.

The most-controversial topic surrounding these All-Star festivities is the presence of Pete Rose, the banished all-time hit king who will be allowed to take part in pregame festivities along with other Cincinnati Reds legends.

Rose, who was banned from baseball in 1989 by then-commissioner Bart Giamatti for gambling on the sport while managing the Reds, has made a renewed push for reinstatement. Manfred reiterated Tuesday that he expects to meet with Rose at some point to discuss his case, but that meeting has not yet been scheduled.

  1. zmunchkin - Jul 14, 2015 at 5:48 PM

    To address pace of play issues, before a pitch clock, I would like to see two changes in how relief pitchers are handled:

    – If the catcher goes out to talk to the pitcher, then the manager can’t go out to replace him once the HP ump breaks up the conversation. Bochy does this a lot in order to buy more time for his relief pitchers to warm up. Others do it too, but not nearly to the same extent.

    – If you bring in a relief pitcher and he gets the first batter he faces out, he has to face at least one more batter (barring injury) in that inning. We need to get rid of LOOGY and ROOGY.

  2. rlndtln - Jul 14, 2015 at 5:54 PM

    Whats the rush.

  3. Hiram Hover - Jul 14, 2015 at 6:04 PM

    Unless there’s more context or subtext to his remarks, Tony Clark just sounds like he’s foaming at the mouth there at points.

    What does the third deck have to do with a pitch clock? If the game moves slower in the minors and the pitch clock works there, why wouldn’t it work in the majors?

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 14, 2015 at 6:23 PM

      Tony Clark was addressing his players and couldn’t come up with some of their names. An embarrassing stumble as the camera focused on Archer and another player.

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 14, 2015 at 6:39 PM

        Ouch.

  4. Soul Possession, My Sofa - Jul 14, 2015 at 8:18 PM

    The game is faster, but offense is down, too, which probably has as much to do with the reduction as anything, I would guess.

  5. TimDz - Jul 14, 2015 at 9:00 PM

    What’s Rob’s view on the MASN fustercluck?

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 14, 2015 at 9:43 PM

      He addressed it back in May and MASN and the Os jumped on him. Probably not too eager to go there again.

  6. Section 222 - Jul 14, 2015 at 10:36 PM

    I’m happy to see the slightly less long games this year, and glad they’ve achieved it without fundamentally changing the game. A pitch clock would change it. Just say no.

    154 games? Ok, I guess. As long as my season ticket plan is cheaper. To allow them to let even more teams in the playoffs and still finish the season on Halloween or in November? No.

    I will confess I find the Rose controversy. I suppose it will be with us until they let him in the Hall or he dies. I don’t much care to be honest.

    • Soul Possession, My Sofa - Jul 15, 2015 at 9:24 AM

      “I don’t much care to be honest.”

      Neither did Pete. Difference is, you’re indifferent. 😉

  7. Section 222 - Jul 14, 2015 at 10:38 PM

    K-Rod? Really?

  8. unterp - Jul 15, 2015 at 10:33 AM

    not sure of anything, but if you are going to add a pitch clock, or clocks in general, it should be something extreme like 15 secs, a catcher visiting the mound counting as a visit, and lets keep the 162 games, but lets make it really interesting by going to 7 inning games, only going to a maximum of 9 inning for extra inning, and going to a shoot out 3 minute 1 round HR derby after 9 innings, if a tie after that, 2 min round, etc

    Damn if this wouldn’t bring new fans to the game…

    • Sonny G 10 - Jul 17, 2015 at 12:14 AM

      Yes, hockey fans or soccer fans! 😦

  9. RoadApples - Jul 15, 2015 at 7:40 PM

    No pitch clock at the Major League level. ( keep @ AAA, AA and Zona Fall League.
    No expansion until the two FL franchises increase attendence.
    I am no fan of the Angelos
    Regime; that being said the Orioles geographic market was cut into dramatically when the Expos were moved to DC. Consequently the Orioles need to be rewarded handsomely.
    Pete Rose bet on baseball:
    the Commish needs to tell Rose that the day Charlie Hustle is toe tagged is the day that his recommendation to the Hall will be granted by MLB.

  10. RoadApples - Jul 15, 2015 at 7:55 PM

    To allow for expanded playoffs and/or additional in season days off for players and keep the 162 game regular season intact to placate the Owners;
    with the caveat that the season starts 1 to 2 weeks earlier by trimming back the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues time frame and schedule these earlier opening game series in warmer weather cities or domed stadiums.

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