MLB commissioner Rob Manfred talks pace of play on Red Sox broadcast
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MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred stopped by the Red Sox broadcast booth Wednesday to discuss a new partnership with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the ever-controversial topic of pace of play.
It’s no secret that baseball’s commissioner has been bargaining with the player’s union to improve pace of play. In February, Manfred publicly called out the union for a “lack of cooperation” and threatened to unilaterally implement rule changes next year if he and the players could not come to an agreement.
On Wednesday, he addressed questions surrounding a pitch clock, mound visits and the increased use of technology, while also expressing optimism that the two sides could reach an agreement.
“There’s actually a playing rule provision in the basic agreement as to how you change a playing rule,” Manfred said. “I’m hopeful that we’re gonna have some nice positive conversations about our ideas, some ideas I know Tony [Clark] and the players have and hopefully get a set of changes for next year that’ll help us a little bit on the pace of play.”
Tony Clark, the union chief, has been averse to major changes like many players. They fear that changes could turn players into “robots” and want to honor the game’s tradition. However, as attention spans get shorter and shorter, it is incumbent upon all in a position of power in the baseball world to act in a way that attracts more fans to the game.
Manfred is open to accomplishing this in a variety of ways, and he’s thinking outside the box. One possible solution involves equipping pitchers with ear pieces in order to reduce the number of mound visits – something Manfred supports.
“Some of those things in terms of using technology, are worth thinking about,” Manfred said. “In terms of not changing the game, still giving the manager the ability to communicate, but moving things along.”
Manfred remains open to any number of ideas, such as scoreboard explanations, that would better educate fans. In his mind, the league is “short now on explanations with respect to particularly more technical plays.”
When asked whether giving umpires mics to better communicate what happens during replays, he expressed some hesitancy.
“I think it would be fan friendly on the one hand,” Manfred said. “I think our hesitancy with it, it’s another delay in the game and obviously we’re trying to avoid those things.”
He stopped short of saying that he would like to see pitchers required to face more than one hitter, indicating that rule changes need to be careful not to mess with a game’s outcome.
“I’d like to get at the real dead-time issues first,” Manfred said.
Manfred also discussed the million-dollar donation to Kansas City’s Negro Leagues Baseball Museum that was announced Wednesday. Along with the player’s association, the new partnership will ensure that younger generations get the chance to appreciate African American contributions to baseball and society at this special museum for years to come.
“We’re engaged in such an investment, an effort in terms of trying to improve African American participation in the game that in order to be successful in a rebuild like that, you have to have a solid foundation and an understanding of the history of the Negro leagues, how those Negro leagues play into African American history, African American culture and how they play into more broadly American history,” he said.
While Manfred and the players don’t see eye to eye on every issue, he made a point to recognize the contributions of players like Rick Porcello, who received the William “Bullet” Rogan Award on Tuesday at the Negro Leagues Museum.
Porcello’s alma mater, Seton Hall Preparatory School, dedicated a field to him in June, and the commissioner was on hand as the 2016 Cy Young Award-winner saw his million-dollar donation come to fruition.
“Unbelievable facility that Rick donated and just another example of a lot of the good work that our great players do in their communities and the way that they give back,” he said.