We’re just over one year into the official tenure of Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, and the (relatively) newly appointed executive took some time to chat with Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports and with Jerry Crasnick of ESPN to reflect on his first year in that role. While I’d recommend reading each Q&A in its entirety — Manfred offers interesting thoughts on matters such as his leadership style, interaction with collegiate baseball, and the future of MLB Advanced Media — here are some particularly relevant highlights from the pair of interviews …
- Manfred tells Passan that he is still “one hundred percent” in favor of adding an international draft in the future. “I just think you’ve got to follow the fundamentals on this one,” Manfred explained. “Getting into a single method of entry into the industry will be the most effective in terms of promoting competitive balance.” Manfred didn’t commit to a firm timeline in terms of implementing the draft, but Manfred has spoken in the past about the fact that the influx of high-priced Cuban free agents has “put a stress test” on the international bonus system that was collectively bargained in the last wave of negotiations. While adding an international draft in the upcoming CBA is an ambitious goal, it doesn’t strike me as far-fetched to have a framework drawn up for the following round of negotiations.
- Both Passan and Crasnick asked Manfred about the possibility of eventually expanding beyond the 30 teams currently in the league, and Manfred spoke in favor of doing so. “We’re a growth business,” he told Passan. “Sooner or later, growth businesses expand. Having said that, I do not have a timetable. It’s not a short-term project for us.” Crasnick asked, more specifically, about the possibility of expanding internationally, and Manfred told him that there are indeed international sites that “would be intriguing” as the league looked to expand. However, Manfred also noted that expansion is “not a this-week or this-year issue,” rather characterizing the concept as a longer-term goal.
- Manfred said that he did not mean to invite speculation about the addition of the DH to the National League in some recent comments. “The most likely result on the designated hitter for the foreseeable future is the status quo,” he told Crasnick. “I know [Cardinals general manager] John Mozeliak talked about it, and when you have any National League club talking about it, it’s interesting. But I think the vast majority of clubs in the National League want to stay where they are.” As Manfred went on to note to Passan, it’s important to remember that the DH issue is something that could (but may not) come up in the upcoming collective bargaining talks.
- As for the CBA more generally, Manfred called himself “a CBA optimist” and said he expects to find common ground with the player’s association. “We’ve developed a strong and mature relationship with the MLBPA,” he told Crasnick. “I think the players are doing great, and the owners are happy with the economics. I think there’s enough money in the game that we can find a way to make a new agreement.” When asked by Passan whether a work stoppage would be on the horizon, Manfred said he’d “do everything humanly possible to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
- Regarding the as-yet-untested domestic violence policy reached between the league and the players, Manfred provided some interesting background. The decision was made to pursue a collectively bargained arrangement, he said, in order to ensure a “complete approach to the issue” and also because “collectively bargained policies in disciplinary areas generally have more acceptance among the players because they provide them with certain safeguards that our players have been used to over time.”