MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA chief Tony Clark each chatted with the media today in advance of tonight’s All-Star Game. Here are a few highlights from their comments:
- While the new CBA instituted some rather significant changes to the international signing system, there remain quite a few ad hoc rules in place — with variation, in particular, based on a player’s country of origin. Manfred suggested a more comprehensive change, with the intent of establishing one uniform system for acquiring foreign professional talent, as Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe notes (Twitter links). Clark expressed general agreement with that concept, which suggests that the league and Union will continue working to create one standardized means of acquiring talent from foreign professional leagues in Japan, Korea, Cuba and others.
- The leaguewide power surge has been the source of much discussion of late, with Manfred suggesting there has been no change to the game ball that would explain it. In his most recent comments, he suggested that the current ball falls within rather wide established standards, while also hinting he’s not exactly displeased to see more balls leaving the yard. A tighter variance in testing may be one possible solution, Manfred said (and Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal tweets). But he also noted that bats could be as much of a cause as the baseballs and suggested that MLB will begin testing bats as well, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweets. As for the MLBPA, Clark says “health and safety” considerations — presumably, recent complaints over blisters feature among them — have led the union to engage the league on the topic, Shaikin tweets.
- Changes in home run propensity and the run-scoring environment can impact the player market in subtle ways; so, too, does the change from a fifteen to a ten-day minimum DL stint. Of course, that latter modification also bears more directly on roster movement, since it makes it easier for teams to give rest to slightly injured or worn down players. Manfred suggested that some organizations may have gone too far already with aggressive DL placements, as Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets. “I don’t like some of the activity in terms of what’s going on with the 10-day DL,” said Manfred. That did not seem to be a concern shared by Clark, who indicated he had not received complaints from the players about the way the 10-day DL has functioned.
- Manfred also touched upon a few open stadium issues. As Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. “I continue to believe Tampa (Bay) is a viable major-league market, and I also believe it may be better than the alternatives than we have out there,” Manfred said of the Rays and their efforts to move into a newly constructed, more modern facility. “And I am hopeful we get to a resolution.” The commissioner did concede that eventually there may come a point where alternatives must be considered but stressed that such a point is not close at hand. Topkin adds that based on Manfred’s comments about expansion/relocation on Monday, the primary alternatives are believed to be Montreal, Charlotte and Mexico City (or elsewhere in Mexico).
- Regarding the ongoing stadium issues for the cross-country Athletics, Manfred again offered hope that the team would not need to relocate (via MLB.com’s Mark Newman). Newly hired A’s president Dave Kaval, who was brought in largely to oversee the stadium process, has said recently that the team hopes to have a proposal for the site of a new facility this year, and Manfred is heartened by the efforts being put forth. “I think the renewed interest that [managing partner] John Fisher has shown in finding a new site in Oakland is positive,” said Manfred. “Baseball has had a long history of commitment to its communities. We have been the sport least likely to relocate. We’d like to have Oakland be a success. I think the identification of a single site in Oakland will be a step forward in that stadium process.”
- Newman also notes that Manfred continues to have interest in expanding the league, though the commissioner said expansion will not become a prominent focus until the stadium issues for both the Rays and A’s are resolved. “I know the Mayor of Montreal has been very vocal about bringing baseball back to Montreal,” said Manfred. “Charlotte’s a possibility. And I’d like to think that Mexico City or some other place in Mexico would be a possibility.”
- Finally, Clark addressed the long-simmering issue of substandard wages for minor-league players. Though the MLBPA does not technically represent non-40-man players, almost all of its members spent at least some time playing in the minors without a 40-man spot. Still, Clark largely demurred when asked about the union’s role in the minimum-wage dispute between minor leaguers and MLB organizations. “We’ve done what we can where we can,” Clark said (via Shaikin, on Twitter).