HOUSTON (AP) _ Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says shortening the regular season is becoming a popular topic as players and owners prepare to negotiate a new labor deal.
In his first year on the job, Manfred was at Minute Maid Park before Wednesday night’s game between the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros as part of an effort to meet with players from all 30 teams. He also spoke with reporters about several issues, including Blacks in baseball, Pete Rose, pace of play, domestic violence, and the designated hitter.
Manfred said reducing the number of games in a season would have economic and competitive ramifications, but the idea of giving players more off days is receiving more attention than ever.
“One hundred and sixty-two games in 183 days, and a lot of those 21 days consumed by travel, is a pretty demanding schedule,” he said. “By reputation I work pretty hard, and I don’t think I work 162 days out of 183. It’s a tough schedule.”
The American League transitioned from a 154-game season to 162 in 1961. The National League followed suit the next year.
The current labor agreement between owners and players expires after the 2016 season.
On other topics:
BLACKS IN BASEBALL
Manfred commented on comedian Chris Rock’s recent spoken essay on Blacks in baseball and dwindling fan interest among African-Americans.
“First of all, he’s a funny person,” Manfred said. “But the humor when you have my job is kind of lost on me. We have been working hard and need to continue to work hard to make sure that our audiences and our players complement and reflect the kind of diversity that’s present in our society generally.”
Manfred remained mum on Rose’s possible reinstatement.
Ohio resolutions to reinstate the career hits leader were introduced last week. The resolutions also call for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and the National Baseball Hall of Fame to include Rose on the next Hall of Fame ballot.
If passed, the Ohio Legislature would present a formal recommendation to Major League Baseball to reinstate Rose, although it wouldn’t necessarily have any impact on the sport.
There is still no timetable for a decision on Rose, who agreed to a lifetime ban in 1989 after an investigation concluded he bet on ballgames while managing the Cincinnati Reds.
After years of denials, Rose admitted he did indeed bet on the Reds to win. He recently applied again for reinstatement.
Manfred noted that players have asked about Rose during his meetings with teams.
“I made myself a promise about this,” Manfred said. “All I’m going to say about Pete Rose is I don’t have anything additionally to say at this point and time.”
PACE OF PLAY
Baseball recently tweaked the new procedure for discipline regarding pace of play, giving players more leeway before fines are handed out.
Previously, a series of warnings and fines were set to become cumulative May 1. The change included resetting penalties with each new series.
Manfred said given the players’ cooperation, it was a good idea to revisit the original measures.
“It’s been positive on the field,” he said. “It’s yielded positive results both in terms of the absolute length of the game but also, and more importantly to me, just people’s impression about how the games are moving along.”
Manfred said MLB continues to work with the players’ union on domestic violence issues. The hope is to have a concrete policy in place soon, but Manfred said there are already measures in place for players.
“Although we haven’t concluded an agreement, we have made changes,” he said. “All major league and minor league players receive education on domestic violence topics, training during spring training. We think that’s an important component of any program and we’ll continue to work on the development and the finalization of a comprehensive policy.”
THE DESIGNATED HITTER
The designated hitter has been another hot topic lately after a couple of pitchers were injured while batting and made interesting comments about the rule.
Manfred reiterated that having a DH in the American League and not in the National League is not currently a pressing issue for him.
“I’m a status-quo guy on the DH,” he said. “Of all the things I worry about when I put my head on my pillow, the fact that we have a DH in one league and not in the other is not one of them. I think it’s a topic that causes people to talk about the game, debate the game, and I believe that debate is a sign of the strength of our game and should be encouraged.”