No rule changes likely un­til eve of spring train­ing

Merced Sun-Star - - Sports -

Ma­jor League Base­ball and its play­ers’ union likely will not de­cide un­til the eve of spring train­ing whether to change rules in an ef­fort to in­crease ac­tion on the field next year.

Deputy Com­mis­sioner Dan Halem said Thurs­day as the an­nual gen­eral man­agers’ meet­ings ended that there was no con­sen­sus for change yet. More dis­cus­sions will take place when own­ers gather next week in At­lanta, the union’s ex­ec­u­tive board con­venes in late Novem­ber and ma­jor league ex­ec­u­tives go to Las Ve­gas for the win­ter meet­ings in mid-De­cem­ber.

Top­ics be­ing dis­cussed in­clude the in­creased use of de­fen­sive shifts, the de­crease in in­nings thrown by start­ing pitch­ers and tech­nol­ogy that aids sign steal­ing. A pos­si­ble 20-sec­ond pitch clock and al­ter­ations to rules for waivers, trade dead­lines and dis­abled lists also are be­ing talked about by a tra­di­tion­bound sport re­sis­tant to change.

“We’re an en­ter­tain­ment prod­uct. Cer­tainly, we want to play the game in a way that’s com­pelling for our au­di­ence, in­clud­ing the younger au­di­ence,” Halem said.

Agree­ment with the union is nec­es­sary for play­ing rules changes, but man­age­ment has the right to uni­lat­er­ally im­ple­ment a new play­ing rule with one year ad­vance no­tice. Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred had the right to man­date pitch clocks for 2018 but backed off when the union re­fused to agree, and he re­tains the abil­ity to or­der clocks for 2019.

MLB did ini­ti­ate lim­its on mound trips with­out pitch­ing changes in 2018, and the av­er­age time of a nine-in­ning game dropped to 3 hours, 44 sec­onds dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son from 3:05:11 in 2017 – although it rose to 3:34:50 this post­sea­son from 3:29:28 in 2017.

Halem said he isn’t cer­tain when man­age­ment and the union will meet and set spring train­ing as the dead­line to de­ter­mine any ac­tions.

Man­fred has said the sport is ex­am­in­ing whether it should try to man­age the evo­lu­tion of on-field play in an era when strike­outs topped hits for the first time in 2018 and the big league bat­ting av­er­age dropped to its low­est level since 1972, the last sea­son be­fore the Amer­i­can League adopted the des­ig­nated hit­ter. Strike­outs have set records for 11 straight years as more pitch­ers throw harder and teams more fre­quently bring in re­liev­ers.

Most gen­eral man­agers said their fo­cus is win­ning un­der the cur­rent rules.

“I just re­act to what­ever’s hap­pen­ing and do ev­ery­thing I can to try to put our team in po­si­tion to score more runs than the other team,” Los An­ge­les Dodgers pres­i­dent of base­ball op­er­a­tions An­drew Friedman said.

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