Man­fred: No DH or draft changes likely for 2019

Cecil Whig - - NATIONAL SPORTS -

OR­LANDO, FLA. (AP) — Don’t look for a Na­tional League des­ig­nated hit­ter this year or for new anti-tank­ing rules in June’s am­a­teur draft.

Base­ball Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred said Fri­day that man­age­ment is fo­cused on pace-of-game changes for 2019 and bolder ideas pro­posed by the play­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion are too com­plex to be put in place for this sea­son.

Speak­ing Fri­day af­ter an own­ers’ meet­ing, Man­fred felt en­cour­aged the union re­sponded to man­age­ment’s pro­posal for a pitch clock and a three-bat­ter min­i­mum for a re­lief pitcher un­less an in­ning ends.

“Some of these items need to be part of broader dis­cus­sions that cer­tainly will con­tinue af­ter open­ing day, and I hope we can fo­cus on some of the is­sues that need to get re­solved quickly in the in­terim,” Man­fred said.

Base­ball is in its third year of a five-year la­bor deal, one in which the free-agent mar­ket has slowed con­sid­er­ably — even with premier play­ers avail­able such as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Man­age­ment would dis­cuss larger changes as part of a deal for a new col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment ex­tend­ing be­yond De­cem­ber 2021.

“I hope and I re­ally do be­lieve that there is a com­mon in­ter­est be­tween the play­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion, the play­ers, the own­ers and the com­mis­sioner’s of­fice in changes, whether they’re midterm or other­wise, that make our en­ter­tain­ment prod­uct the best it could pos­si­bly be,” Man­fred said.

Af­ter the 2016 and 2017 sea­sons, play­ers re­buffed man­age­ment’s pro­posal for a pitch clock de­signed to speed the pace of play. Man­age­ment has the right to im­ple­ment a clock, but Man­fred has been re­luc­tant to make on-field changes with­out play­ers’ agree­ment.

Man­age­ment pre­sented its lat­est pro­posal Jan. 14, one that in­cluded a re­quire­ment that pitch­ers face at least three bat­ters or fin­ish an in­ning. Play­ers re­sponded Feb. 1 with a broader plan, re­new­ing their push for the DH in all games, an ear­lier trade dead­line aimed at dis­cour­ag­ing teams with los­ing records from trad­ing stars, in­creas­ing ser­vice time for top young stars called up early in the sea­son and re­ward­ing and pe­nal­iz­ing teams in the draft based on their records.

“Those are sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic is­sues. They are dif­fer­ent in kind than the type of play­ing-rule changes that that we have out there,” Man­fred said. “I think that there are pieces of their re­sponse on the on-field pro­posal that were very en­cour­ag­ing. I think what needs to be sorted out is how closely the two agen­das are tied, in other words, the on-field stuff and the eco­nomic stuff.”

Last off­sea­son, ne­go­ti­a­tions were ham­pered by player anger over the slow free-agent mar­ket. This off­sea­son’s pace of sign­ings has been faster but re­mains far slower than most pre­vi­ous years.

“We want play­ers signed, par­tic­u­larly star play­ers. I wish they were signed and ready to go,” Man­fred said. “We got an­other week be­fore they have to re­port. I’m re­ally hope­ful that it’s go­ing to get re­solved dur­ing that pe­riod of time.”

MLB’s pro­posal that pitch­ers face a min­i­mum of three bat­ters in an in­ning un­less it ends was de­signed both for pace and to slow or re­verse the in­creased use of re­liev­ers. The union wants its use at the big league level de­layed un­til 2020.

“Re­peated pitch­ing changes ob­vi­ously take a lot of time,” he said. “The idea of re­liev­ers hav­ing to go longer is ap­peal­ing in terms of pro­mot­ing the role of the

MLB

start­ing pitcher, en­cour­ag­ing pitch­ers to pitch a lit­tle longer at the be­gin­ning of the game . ... I think his­tor­i­cally some of our big­gest stars (are) start­ing pitch­ers and we want to make sure those big stars are out there long enough that that they are mar­keted.”

AT­TEN­DANCE Af­ter three straight years of drops that left at­ten­dance at its low­est since 2003, Man­fred said it is too early spec­u­late about 2019.

“We’re hope­ful that we see a re­bound from last year but, again, dif­fi­cult to pre­dict at this point,” he said.

He said he doesn’t think the op­er­a­tion of the freeagent mar­ket was a big is­sue af­fect­ing ticket sales.

“I do think that neg­a­tive com­men­tary sur­round­ing the game that is not fac­tu­ally sup­ported can have an im­pact on at­ten­dance — as­ser­tions about clubs not try­ing to win and the like, I think that’s not help­ful,” he said.

GAM­BLING to

MLB has talked to the union about ex­pand­ing the anti-gam­bling pro­vi­sion sec­tion of the Ma­jor League Rules to pro­hibit the dis­clo­sure of con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion that could be used in bet­ting.

REV­ENUE SHAR­ING

GRIEV­ANCE Man­fred said the union is still in the fact-gath­er­ing stage of its griev­ance filed last win­ter ac­cus­ing Mi­ami, Oak­land, Pitts­burgh and Tampa Bay of not prop­erly spend­ing money they re­ceived in rev­enue shar­ing.

On other mat­ters:

SO­CIAL ME­DIA MLB will make game high­lights avail­able to play­ers for use on so­cial me­dia. 150TH AN­NIVER­SARY

OF PRO BALL Teams will wear a spe­cial patch to mark the 150th an­niver­sary of pro­fes­sional base­ball, and there will be spe­cial hats on open­ing day. The Cincin­nati Reds, the first pro team in 1869, will be at the fore­front of the cel­e­bra­tion. RE­GIONAL SPOR TS

NET­WORKS

MLB re­ceived a sec­ond round of data in its ef­fort to pur­chase 14 team re­gional sports net­works from The Walt Dis­ney Co., which is sell­ing them af­ter ac­quir­ing the net­works from 21st Cen­tury Fox. If suc­cess­ful, MLB could re­sell rights to stream­ing ser­vices or ca­ble providers. “I think that we rec­og­nize that the me­dia land­scape is chang­ing quickly and if some­body is go­ing to be man­ag­ing that chang­ing land­scape, we just as soon that it be us,” Man­fred said. RAWL­INGS

MLB ex­tended its agree­ment with Rawl­ings to sup­ply base­balls, a deal that also in­cludes hel­mets and gloves. EX­EC­U­TIVE COUN­CIL Bos­ton’s John Henry and Colorado’s Dick Mon­fort were elected to the ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil, re­plac­ing At­lanta’s Terry McGuirk and the New York Yan­kees’ Hal Stein­bren­ner. The coun­cil also in­cludes the Chicago Cubs’ Tom Rick­etts and Tampa Bay’s Stu Stern­berg (whose terms ex­pire in 2020); San Diego’s Ron Fowler and Hous­ton’s Jim Crane (2021); and Mil­wau­kee’s Mark At­tana­sio and Jerry Reins­dorf of the Chicago White Sox (2022).

AP PHOTO

Rob Man­fred, com­mis­sioner of Ma­jor League Base­ball, talks to re­porters at the end of the day’s con­fer­ences at MLB base­ball own­ers meet­ings Thurs­day, Feb. 7, 2019, in Or­lando, Fla.

AP PHOTO

Bos­ton Red Sox’s Mookie Betts, left, greets des­ig­nated hit­ter J.D. Martinez at the dugout af­ter Martinez’s solo home run dur­ing the fourth in­ning of a base­ball game against the New York Yan­kees in Bos­ton, Satur­day, Aug. 4, 2018. The Na­tional League will not have a des­ig­nated hit­ter in 2019.

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