Just wait for rules to speed up base­ball, com­mis­sioner says

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - STEVEN WINE PALM BEACH, FLA. —

To those root­ing for base­ball to speed up the game, com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred says: have pa­tience.

Own­ers and play­ers rat­i­fied a new collective bar­gain­ing agree­ment in De­cem­ber, but they’re still ne­go­ti­at­ing in­no­va­tions de­signed to im­prove the pace of play. Own­ers dis­cussed the is­sue dur­ing two days of meet­ings that con­cluded Fri­day.

“We did re­view some rule changes largely re­lated to pace of game that are be­ing dis­cussed with the play­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion,” Man­fred said. “More to fol­low when those ne­go­ti­a­tions are com­plete.”

Man­fred has pushed for faster games since he be­came com­mis­sioner two years ago. But the av­er­age time of a nine-in­ning game last sea­son was 3 hours, a 4-minute in­crease over 2015. One play­off game took more than 4½ hours.

The new CBA, which ex­tends labour peace to 26 years through 2021, ad­dresses is­sues such as smoke­less to­bacco and World Se­ries home­field ad­van­tage but not on-field rules.

“Given the re­ally se­ri­ous big eco­nomic is­sues on the table, I think it’s un­re­al­is­tic to think that you’re go­ing to get an agree­ment (re­gard­ing pace of play) when you’re do­ing the over­all agree­ment,” Man­fred said. “As is the usual course in the off-sea­son, we’re turn­ing to the play­ing rule is­sues now.”

Man­age­ment would like to tighten re­stric­tions on trips to the mound and in­tro­duce a pitch clock, which has been used in Triple-A and Dou­ble-A the past two sea­sons. Play­ers gen­er­ally have re­sisted such changes, and many say there’s no prob­lem with the length of games. Man­fred dis­agrees. “Pace of play is an is­sue that ‘we’ need to be fo­cused on,” he said. “The ‘we’ there is play­ers, own­ers, um­pires — ev­ery­one who is in­vested in this game.

“I don’t think there’s a magic bul­let that is go­ing to come one year to be the so­lu­tion to pace of play. It’s go­ing to be an on­go­ing ef­fort to make sure our game moves along in a way that is most at­trac­tive to our fans.”

Mi­ami Mar­lins pres­i­dent David Sam­son said Ma­jor League Base­ball is aware that de­spite much talk about the need to speed up games, the prob­lem has wors­ened.

“Pace of game is crit­i­cal,” Sam­son said. “We know that from our fans and TV part­ners. We have to rec­og­nize the real­ity of life today, which is that at­ten­tion spans are go­ing down and choices are go­ing up. What­ever busi­ness you’re in, you have to ad­just.”

Among other is­sues Man­fred dis­cussed af­ter the meet­ings:

Ma­jor League Base­ball is “mon­i­tor­ing the de­vel­op­ments” re­gard­ing re­cent changes in U.S. im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Man­fred said. “Ob­vi­ously our fore­most con­cern is that play­ers that are un­der con­tract with our or­ga­ni­za­tions be able to come and go. As of right now the coun­tries that have been mostly af­fected are not places where we have play­ers.”

The new CBA elim­i­nates the pro­vi­sion that gave World Se­ries home­field ad­van­tage to the All-Star win­ner, but Man­fred said play­ers will still be mo­ti­vated to win the Al­lS­tar Game. “I am a be­liever that when our play­ers go out on the field they want to win, whether it’s in the All-Star Game or any other game.”

LYNNE SLADKY, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred speaks Fri­day af­ter a meet­ing with Ma­jor League Base­ball own­ers.

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