Manfred addresses several topics at Fenway
BOSTON -- Commissioner Rob Manfred, as part of a scheduled trip to Fenway Park, spoke about several timely issues during a news conference on Tuesday. This was Manfred's first visit to Fenway since becoming Commissioner and was part of the rounds he is making to cities throughout the game.
Here are the highlights of what was discussed:
The FBI investigation into the Cardinals allegedly obtaining unauthorized information from the Astros
"What has been reported, and we knew about it well in advance of the report, is there is an ongoing investigation with respect to an unauthorized entry into Houston's system. To assume that investigation is going to produce a particular result with respect to the Cardinals, let alone to jump to a word like cyber attack, we don't know that those are the facts yet.
"There is an ongoing investigation. We've been fully cooperative. Obviously any allegation like this, no matter how serious it turns out to be, is of great concern to us, but it's just too early to speculate on what the facts are going to turn out to be and what action, if any, is necessary."
Eight players from one club, the Royals, atop All-Star balloting
"Look, we've got 16 days left. Lots of years, we've worried about lots of things with respect to fan voting. In general, over time, fans have done a pretty good job, so we'll see how it all turns out. What I would say is I hope over time that what people come to think about the Commissioner's Office is that when a situation such as this one example comes up, that we are responsive and open to change if in fact it appears that we get a result that is not consistent with the goals of the system that's currently in place."
Safety in light of fan Tonya Carpenter getting struck by a shattered bat at Fenway
"What I'd say about this is that our first and foremost concern remains the safety of our fans. After the incident here in Boston, we first wanted to make sure that Tonya Carpenter received absolutely the best care that she could, and the Red Sox were fantastic in that regard. Since that time, we have been focused on a variety of remedies that could be used to address this problem. They include things like additional bat regulations, wrapping of bats, increased netting. I think it's important as we move forward with this that we keep all the available options on the table and make the best decision to make sure that our fans are as safe as possible."
Possibility of a 154-game schedule
"There is conversation in the industry, and I define industry broadly that way -- clubs, players, press -- about a 154-game schedule. I would say the following things about it. First of all, it is a massive economic issue. Our gates and our broadcasts are tremendously valuable. Blessing and curse, there it is.
"And it would be a huge economic undertaking for the industry. If, in fact, something were to be done, I think there is a certain appeal because of the significance of numbers and statistics in baseball to returning to a number that we played at previously as opposed to getting into a third number. This one is a topic that obviously would have to be bargained with the Players Association, so while there's a lot of conversation out there, right now, I think at earliest, this is a 2016 issue."
Improvement in pace of game
"Well, we are really encouraged by the early results. I said from the beginning that I was not focused on a particular game time, but the game time is down. It is one metric. I think equally important are the people that we have out observing games every day have almost the uniform impression that the pace of the game, that the time of the game is much improved this year and overall positive.
"I think that is due, in no small measure, to two groups. Number one, the unbelievable level of cooperation we've gotten from the players. You know, I'm not sure what accounts for it, but I do know we engaged in a process with the MLBPA that included extensive player involvement from the very beginning, and I think that's always a positive.
"The second group that I would be remiss if I didn't mention is the umpires. I think the umpires have made moving the game along a focus, and they've done it without creating needless confrontation. I have to commend both of our on-field groups for that."
Whether MLB could return to Montreal
"The market was a Major League market. My only view is that it could be again. The mayor of Montreal has embarked on a course of action that is quite prudent and effective. The two years of exhibition games where they sold about 95,000 tickets each year is a great indicator of the level of interest.
"I know he would like to have a regular-season series there. These talks are what I would characterize as in the very early stages. I do believe it would be a useful next step. Before we relocate or expand into a market like that, we need to see a credible, realistic plan for a facility. The team left the last time because of that. It is unlikely that we would go back without a credible plan."
Whether the strike zone has changed
"This issue came up in the Red Sox clubhouse today. I told them that no direction has been given to umpires to expand the strike zone in conjunction with the pace of play. We are making sure we are calling the rule-book strike as close as possible and that it is on a uniform basis as much as possible."
Potential of MLB exhibition games in Cuba
"It remains our goal to play exhibition games and other events in Cuba as soon as possible. I remain hopeful that it will be no later than Spring Training next year. In regards to individual teams in international play, it is kind of asking one guy if you want to buy another guy's house. Decisions on international play are made by MLB in conjunction with the MLBPA. Our conversations are that everyone is interested in playing in Cuba, but we haven't identified particular teams as targets."