Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred indicated Tuesday changes to the game are imminent for 2018 as he and players’ association executive director Tony Clark continue negotiations on tweaks to the on-field product.
Speaking to the Baseball Writers’ Association before Tuesday night’s All-Star Game, Manfred and Clark noted in separate sessions that dialogue between both sides and that, without citing specifics, more tweaks will occur just one year after the sides hammered out a new collective bargaining agreement.
“I remain of the view that a deal will be made,” Manfred said, noting he desires that MLB “take a more aggressive posture” in managing the evolution of the game. “Only the players are between the lines; not us. So hopefully we will get an agreement, and I won’t get much past that.”
Said Clark: “It’s a delicate balance to not change the game so much that the current fan wouldn’t recognize the game. It’s a discussion of how to move the industry forward together.”
With both home run rates and time of game at an all-time high, it seems far likelier the sides will move on the latter far more than the former. At 3 hours, 5 minutes, the average nine-inning game has not decreased in length. While Manfred and Clark avoided specifics such as a pitch clock, it appeared likely they would agree to changes and avoid a “nuclear option” of sorts that Manfred suggested in March – that he would unilaterally implement changes.
Manfred insisted that the baseball remains within industry standards, and assigned a variety of reasons to the record home run spike – from training methods and superior conditioning, to the propensity for pitchers to throw hard and the willingness of hitters to absorb strikeouts – also on pace for a new record.
“Will we ever know the whole answer? Probably not,” says Manfred.
Clark indicated the baseball was a “health issue” for his membership; several pitchers have struggled with blisters this season and noted the seams on the baseball are lower, which could be a culprit.
Of course, both commissioner and union chief indicated that the overall health of the game – and the home run’s part in that – means they don’t want to overthink tweaks too much.
Said Manfred: “Our research shows the home run is a popular play in baseball.”