Manfred, Clark concerned with state of MLB
Major League Baseball wants a broad discussion with players about rule changes to combat decreased offense and longer games, an initiative likely to be met by a testy union stung by declining free-agent prices and already raising the possibility of a work stoppage after the 2021 season.
Commissioner Rob Manfred and players’ association head Tony Clark outlined their differing agendas during separate sessions with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America before Tuesday night’s All-Star Game.
Manfred said pace of play, strikeouts, the number of home runs, the shift and the use of starting and relief pitchers are all topics of discussion for potential rule changes.
“There is a growing consensus or maybe even better an existing consensus among ownership that we need to have a really serious conversation about making some changes to the way the game is being played,” Manfred said.
Clark repeatedly maintained players are reluctant to change as “stewards of the game.”
“We may get to a point where those coming to the ballpark or have an interest in coming to the ballpark for whatever reason aren’t 100 percent certain that what they are see is the type of game that they want to see,” he said.
More than 100 free agents remained unsigned when spring training began this year. Many agreed to deals at a fraction of the price they thought they were worth and for fewer years than they expected.
Baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972-95 but has had labor peace since. The current five-year contract runs through the 2021 season, and Clark left open a possible return to the era of strife.
The union filed a grievance in February against Miami, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, accusing the teams of failing to appropriately spend revenue-sharing money in an effort to improve their on-field product. Manfred said the grievance was filed “really for publicity reasons.”
“At the end of the year you’ll look at the performance of those players,” he said, “I’m pretty sure, based on what’s already in the books, you’re going to make the judgment that the clubs made sound decisions as to how those players should be valued.”
Management is alarmed by what is taking place on the field. Strikeouts (24,537) are on track to surpass hits (24,314) for the first time. Strikeouts also are likely to set a record for the 12th straight season. The current big league batting average of .247 would be the lowest since 1972.
Teams are projected to use total of 34,668 shifts this season — up 29.8 percent from last year.