Pace-of-game talks go slowly

MLB com­mi­sioner talks changes, Marlins sale and play­ing in Europe

Kingston Whig-Standard - - SPORTS - RON­ALD BLUM

NEW YORK — Even talks to speed the pace of Ma­jor League Base­ball games are go­ing slowly.

Base­ball Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred said man­age­ment will speak some more with the play­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion be­fore de­cid­ing whether to push ahead with ini­tia­tives to speed games in 2018.

The av­er­age time of a nine-in­ning game is a record 3 hours, 5 min­utes this sea­son, up from 3 hours last year and 2:56 in 2015, Man­fred’s first sea­son as com­mis­sioner.

“We’ve prob­a­bly gone back­wards a lit­tle bit,” Man­fred said Thurs­day af­ter an owners’ meet­ing.

MLB made pro­pos­als last off-sea­son that play­ers re­fused to ac­cept for 2017, but man­age­ment can uni­lat­er­ally im­ple­ment them for 2018. They in­clude a pitch clock, lim­its on vis­its to the pitcher’s mound by catch­ers and restor­ing the lower edge of the strike zone from just be­neath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap.

Union head Tony Clark and his mem­bers agreed only to one of the pro­posed changes for 2017: pitch­less in­ten­tional walks.

“We’ve had ex­ten­sive con­ver­sa­tions with Tony about a process for put­ting a se­ries of meet­ings to­gether to try to ad­vance the ball on the pace-of-game is­sues,” Man­fred said. “We re­main com­mit­ted to the idea ... there are things that can be done to try to im­prove on the paceof-game topic. And we will con­tinue to purse that agenda with Tony over the course of the sea­son.”

Clark has said pre­vi­ously that play­ers think changes to on-field rules rarely are sim­ple.

“We are gath­er­ing in­for­ma­tion our­selves and will look to sit down for­mally with MLB later this sum­mer to dis­cuss th­ese is­sues,” he told The Associated Press.

Here are other top­ics Man­fred ad­dressed:

Marlins sale

“There are two bid­ders, at least, for the fran­chise. The bid­ders are in rel­a­tively the same place in terms of price, maybe mi­nus­cule dif­fer­ences, and they are in fact in the price range that (owner Jef­frey) Lo­ria was look­ing for,” Man­fred said.

For­mer Florida Gov. Jeb Bush leads one group, which in­cludes for­mer New York Yan­kees cap­tain Derek Jeter, who would head the team’s base­ball op­er­a­tions. The other group is led by busi­ness­man Tagg Rom­ney, son of for­mer Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Mitt Rom­ney, and in­cludes Hall of Famer Tom Glavine.

Lo­ria bought the Marlins for $158.5 mil­lion in 2002 and is seek­ing to sell for ap­prox­i­mately $1.3 bil­lion, which would in­clude the as­sump­tion of about $100 mil­lion in base­ball-re­lated debt. More than $200 mil­lion in other debt associated with the team would be paid by Lo­ria as part of the clos­ing.

“The process is mov­ing for­ward. It’s re­ally be­tween the Marlins and the bid­ders,” Man­fred said. “At this point, two things need to hap­pen. There needs to be a so­lid­i­fied fi­nan­cial struc­ture pre­sented to us so that we’re sure that we ac­tu­ally have a trans­ac­tion that can move ahead, and there are cer­tain doc­u­ments, the most im­por­tant of which are a pur­chase and sale agree­ment that need to be ne­go­ti­ated be­tween the buyer and the seller. And we’ll be ready to process the trans­ac­tion when those two things are com­pleted.”


Man­fred re­mains hope­ful MLB can play reg­u­lar-sea­son games in Europe for the first time in 2019.

Ma­jor League Base­ball had hoped to have Eu­ro­pean games in 2018, pos­si­bly be­tween the New York Yan­kees and the Bos­ton Red Sox at Lon­don’s Olympic Sta­dium, but de­cided there was not enough time to get plans in place.

“It’s some­thing we’d re­ally like to do in 2019,” Man­fred said. “I can’t tell you we are go­ing to do it. I can’t give you a per­cent­age, but we do think it’s time, whether it’s 2019 or shortly there­after, that we play in Europe.”

Face­book telecasts

Face­book will carry a live game na­tion­ally each Fri­day start­ing with Colorado at Cincin­nati this week. The Face­book pack­age of 20 games will use the broad­cast feed of one of the in­volved teams. The Twit­ter feed of a game each Fri­day, which started April 7, will be moved to Tues­days.

Man­fred called it “re­ally im­por­tant for us in terms of ex­per­i­ment­ing with a new part­ner in this area.”

Other de­vel­op­ments

• Chris Il­itch, son of the late Mike Il­itch,to suc­ceed­was unan­i­mous­ly­his fa­ther as the ap­provedTigers’ con­trol­ling owner. • Colorado owner Dick Mon­fort re­placed San Diego’s Ron Fowler as chair­man of the labour pol­icy com­mit­tee. • Un­der Ar­mour will take over from Ma­jes­tic Ath­letic as the sup­plier of MLB uni­forms in 2019, a year ear­lier than pre­vi­ously sched­uled. • Hall of Famers Roberto Alo­mar and John Smoltz are among 16 men ap­pointed to a new com­pe­ti­tion com­mit­tee that in­cludes man­agers Joe Gi­rardi (Yan­kees), Mike Ma­theny (Car­di­nals), Dave Roberts (Dodgers) and Buck Showal­ter (Orioles). • Man­fred said “there is no sta­tis­ti­cal dif­fer­ence be­tween in­jury rates for play­ers who par­tic­i­pate in the WBC and those who don’t.” • MLB will be en­ter­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions with Stub­Hub, whose fiveyear agree­ment runs through this sea­son. • Man­fred said “we are very close to be­ing fin­ished” with an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Dodgers, who were ac­cused by Nick Fran­cona of fir­ing him im­prop­erly last year. Fran­cona, who had been as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of player de­velop­ment, is a son of Cleve­land man­ager Terry Fran­cona. • MLB would like to make changes in the player ac­qui­si­tion agree­ment with its Ja­panese coun­ter­parts. In De­cem­ber 1998, MLB and Nip­pon Pro­fes­sional Base­ball agreed to the post­ing sys­tem in which Ja­panese clubs can make avail­able play­ers over which they have con­trol. MLB teams bid, and the player’s Ja­panese club re­ceives the post­ing fee only if he reaches agree­ment with an MLB club.


The home run sculp­ture at Marlins Park in Mi­ami is seen in this file photo. There are “at least” two bid­ders look­ing to buy the Mi­ami Marlins from Jef­frey Lo­ria. Lo­ria is seek­ing ap­prox­i­mately $1.3 bil­lion for the team.

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