Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred met with the media Tuesday in Washington, D.C. prior to the 89th annual All-Star Game.
Manfred held court on a number of controversial topics including instant replay, the designated hitter and the defensive shift. Below are excerpts from Manfred’s discussion with the media.
On the defensive shift:
“The shift is a very controversial development in the game. I think the real question is what sort of rule will produce the outcome that people are looking for. In other words, is there a change that we can make with respect to defensive alignment that’s going to get away from the 3 true out comes, and I’m not sure — I’m not sure there is.
I think it’s something we need to discuss more and I think it’s something where we need to get a lot of player input, but if you think about it, right now players have made a decision that the home run, trying to hit it over the shift, is more valuable than the hit to the opposite field.
So even if you move players back to the opposite side of the diamond, it’s unclear that they are going to change their approach at the plate. So we’ve got to think that one all the way through.”
What do you believe could be modified in regards to replay to improve the game?
“I think the trick on replay, on average, and I think it’s important to understand this, replay adds one minute to each of the 2,430 games that we play over the course of the season.
So for me, that one minute, nobody is more interested in quick games than I am, but that one minute is a good trade for getting important calls correct. If you start from that premise, the key becomes how do you shorten the time that replay takes so fans are not sitting in the ballpark, and I think the key there is technology.
The best example of that: The move to super slow motion cameras at first base makes the first base reviews much quicker, and I think we continue to use technology to make the replay process as effective and efficient as possible.”
Do you expect MLB to expand any time in the near future, and if so, where?
“I think that what I’ve said about expansion publically is we have two issues with respect to stadiums, Tampa Bay and Oakland, that need to be resolved, before we turn realistically to the issues of expansion. Once those are solved, I would love to get to 32 teams. There are a number of cities, Canada, MÃ©xico and in the United States that want Major League Baseball. That’s a great thing for our sport. And 32 teams does a lot for us from a schedule format perspective.
Right now we have five-team divisions; if we could get to eight 4-team divisions, the schedule would be more flex and I believe give us more opportunities to do things in the schedule to market the game, and it would also allow us to look at our post-season format, and maybe things as aggressive at geographic alignment and things like that.”
Has baseball considered allowing a team to allow a player to re-enter a came in a long extra-inning game?
“Look, we struggle with extra-inning games because of the issue of injury, right. I mean, we don’t want to deprive the fans of that exciting ending and therefore, we play them out till the end.
But when you get into 14, 16, 18 innings, there’s always this risk of injury, and bringing players back, we thought about this issue. We actually think it might have the effect of prolonging games, making them even longer, and we don’t think that’s a particularly good outcome.”
Similar to what the minor leagues have done with starting the 12th inning with a runner, what do you think?
“This is really important. We started talking about this extra-inning rule. We used it in the World Baseball Classic, and people thought that was a prelude of bringing it to the big leagues and there’s a lot of controversy surrounding it. People were calling up my voicemail at night and leaving crazy messages about it.
You know, then it kind of resurfaced with the idea that we would use it in the minor leagues, and it was overwhelmingly supported for use in the minor leagues for exactly the reason you point to, Harold. The minor leagues are about development at the end of the day and one of the key issues in development is how much pitchers pitch, when they pitch, and when you get into really long extra-inning games in Minor League baseball from a development perspective.”