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Oct. 10 Rob Manfred pregame interview

October 10, 2016

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Well, this trip to San Francisco's now officially worthwhile. I just got to spend five minutes with Willie Mays, so the rest of it is all gravy.I'm sure we're going to have a great game tonight. I have not seen a game in this series yet. I've seen

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Well, this trip to San Francisco's now officially worthwhile. I just got to spend five minutes with Willie Mays, so the rest of it is all gravy.
I'm sure we're going to have a great game tonight. I have not seen a game in this series yet. I've seen a number of the different series. I'm excited to be here. Cubs and the Giants are a great matchup for us, and hopefully we're going to have a really good game tonight.
So, with that, I will open it up to questions.
Q. You're in the Bay Area, so you have to be asked the questions about the A's situation.
Q. I think the fans mainly want to know, what's the state of urgency about that? You're on record as saying you want something done. But can you promise A's fans something will be done about this in the next three to five years even? Or where do things stand, and particularly with the Raiders now seemingly delayed on their situation? Where do things stand?
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Well, let's start at the top. It is a complicated situation because of the obvious governmental limitations, and then you lay on that the fact that have you a football team and a baseball team who desperately need new facilities, and you lay on top of that the fact that they play in the same facility right now. You need to work out the logistics of that. So it is very, very complicated.
What I can say to you is this: I have spent more time with the A's, on their stadium situation, than I have spent with any other franchise over the last two years. I do believe that John Fisher and Lew Wolff are committed to the idea that they need to get something done in Oakland. I've told them. They understand that it is my strong preference that the team stay in Oakland. There is ongoing work. They have weekly calls that my office monitors in terms of the work that's ongoing, in terms of selecting a site and determining what the development opportunities are around those sites.
And I am hopeful that in relatively short order we will start to have news about how this is going to proceed.
I talked to the mayor of Oakland last week. She seems very committed to the idea of keeping baseball in Oakland. That's a huge positive for us.
Q. Moving ahead, what role does Major League Baseball play in moving that along? You mentioned phone calls. Will you have someone on the ground here trying to push this along?
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: We will stay engaged with the A's. We will not have somebody here full-time on the ground. The A's project is a project that will involve a very substantial commitment from local ownership. And as a result of that, it has to be a locally driven project. They need to find a project that they think works for them, and they need to push that project forward.
We will continue to impress upon them the urgency of getting a Major League-quality facility in Oakland, and we will continue to provide them with support as they move through the process.
Q. You mentioned in short order. In your mind, what is that? Two years? Three years? What is it?
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: What I said in short order was you begin to have news about how it was going to proceed. And I hope in the next year we will have a good idea about how the project's going to proceed.
Q. You said several times in Oakland. Where in Oakland specifically? There's been questions about Howard Terminal and as opposed to at the Coliseum, which obviously has the Raider issue in it.
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Right now, the A's ownership is engaged in an analysis of multiple sites in Oakland. You mentioned two. There are actually others, and I hope the first piece of news will be a decision as to which site will be the focus of their effort to get their plan and financing together.
Q. Reports have been that John Fisher's getting much more personally involved in every aspect of this. I was just curious, in your dialog with the A's, or any dialog with your office and the A's, do you sense that also?
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: John has been much more active. He has been into New York to visit with me on a number of occasions on the stadium issue. Lew is still the control person in Oakland, but John is definitely, definitely very engaged on particularly the stadium project.
Q. TV broadcast question. Two of them, actually. I think today three different cable networks are broadcasting games. One, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Secondly, just speaking, MLB Network, I know it's a free preview period, but not every cable system gets MLB Network. When they have exclusivity, that seems to be a little bit of an issue for people that don't want to go to bars and everything else.
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Look, multiple networks can be a challenge for fans in terms of finding the games. We understand and appreciate that. But we have great broadcast partners, Turner and Fox, fundamentally, that have cross-promoted in order to help our fans find the games. The MLB Network in the local markets has, as you indicated, opened up the system in order to make sure that we have coverage in the home markets.
And our fundamental desire is to make sure that our fans have an opportunity to see our games and particularly our most important games in the postseason.
Q. CBA negotiations, you had said recently that you were still optimistic about having or you were optimistic about having it done before the postseason's over. Has that stayed the case? And have you sat in on meetings with Dan Halem? You said you would at some point.
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: I have said in terms of timing various things, but I am optimistic we'll have a deal this fall. I remain optimistic about that. I think there are some natural deadlines out there. The beginning of the free agency period, the expiration of the agreement on December 1, and I'm hopeful that we'll be able to get an agreement in advance of those natural deadlines.
I have been involved in the process. I've gone to some of the meetings with Dan. Dan is a really capable labor executive. He's very talented at the table. He's had great owner support -- Ron Fowler, Dick Monfort, John Henry, Randy Levine from the Yankees have all spent considerable time at the table with him.
But I have spent -- I have been in the room at certain points and expect I will be more as the process moves forward.
Q. There are two black managers in the other National League series. Unfortunately they're the only black managers. And I wonder -- I'm going to ask you this; several people did last year at the World Series -- how and when do you start making real progress both at the managerial level for black and Latinos and in the front office?
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Well, you have to remember, I think, that there is always going to be relatively high turnover in both field manager jobs and the front office jobs that you referenced. So, we're going to have an ebb and flow on those issues.
We had points in time where we had more significant representation of minorities in the field manager ranks. That's fallen back a little bit. Our first hiring this off-season was a Latino.
I'm hopeful that you will see real material progress on both fronts in the next couple of years. We have worked very hard to augment our programs in the diversity area. We have a full-time person in the Commissioner's Office who is focused on our pipeline program in terms of hiring minorities into entry-level positions.
We're using resources both originally outside and now inside to work with minority candidates who get interviews, to make sure that they are as prepared and effective in the interview process as they possibly can be and to identify candidates that clubs may not be aware of.
At the end of the day, the clubs are going to hire the most qualified person, the person that thinks -- that they think can either build a winning organization or manage a team on the field in the most effective way.
Our job is to make sure that in making those decisions, they see qualified minority candidates and that those minority candidates have a realistic opportunity to be hired.
Q. Quick follow-up. Talk about benchmark. So what's your benchmark? In other words, what's the benchmark by which we can judge you? Because it's been a number of years -- no, no, the ebb and the flow, it's been ebbing more recently. And so what is a reasonable benchmark by which to address or to hold both you and owners accountable?
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Yeah, quotas in the employment context are actually illegal, whether they're in favor of minorities or, you know, limiting the opportunities available to minorities. And I'm just not prepared to get into putting a number out there that effectively become as quota for the industry, particularly when I don't control the hiring decisions at the end of the day.
Q. To move back to the A's and the Coliseum for just a bit. There was a vote in Las Vegas recently trying to entice the Raiders there. How does that impact the process as you see it?
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Look, I'm not going to comment on developments with respect to another sport. I think if you look at the press, the NFL people don't talk about baseball and what the issues are, and I think that I should do the same thing.
I know that the one thing I will say to you is the mayor in Oakland has made clear to me that baseball is her first priority. She would like to keep both teams, but that baseball is her first priority. And I think that's a good spot for baseball to be in.
Q. When did she tell you that?
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: She's told me that repeatedly over the last year.
Q. On the labor negotiations, in one of your stadium visits last week, I think, you mentioned the schedule was still a point of negotiation, and the writer took that to discuss the length of the schedule.
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Yeah, the writer took that incorrectly.
Q. So we're talking about a 162-game schedule will be negotiated.
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Look, all I said, and let me be clear about it, is that the topic of scheduling, broadly defined, is one of the topics that has to be resolved in the collective bargaining process and that I went on to say I didn't want to get into the specifics of what one side or the other was proposing. I have learned over time that that sort of public comment on the specifics is usually not helpful to the bargaining process, and I'm focused on having a successful process.
Q. A question I have for you regarding -- you were mentioning about the three networks, and I actually happen to be a subscriber to TV, which is a great product. I'm wondering if it's possible at some point, because a lot of households don't no longer -- they've kind of cut the cord, if you will, with cable. Would it be possible, do you think, for subscribers to be able to watch all the product through the handheld without having to wait for blackout restrictions and having to wait --
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: You mean the end-season product?
Q. Exactly.
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Look, the MLB. TV is a nationally controlled product, meaning it's something that's sold out of the Commissioner's Office. We don't have the right to broadcast games in local markets. Those rights belong to the individual clubs. There would have to be a pretty fundamental reordering of television territories that I do not foresee in order to allow that to happen.
What we would like to have happen, and we have actually achieved it in 15 of our markets through an agreement with Fox, is have the local RSN streaming games through their app so that people who have cut the cord, want to watch it, now it's an authenticated product, but it is available in 15 of the markets, and we're hopeful by Opening Day next year we'll have it available in all of our markets.
Q. A game ended in Cincinnati with the umpires sort of dashing off the field and the manager trying to chase them. There's no real reasonable time --
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Well, I'm not really sure that that's an accurate description of how that game ended, but there was a game in Cincinnati where there was a call at the end of the game that at some point the manager came to the realization that he wanted it challenged. That's the game you're asking me about, right?
Q. Bryan Price. I thought there wasn't a whole lot of reasonable time to judge. And given that and given last night, how the umpires did stick around to look at the play, will there be talk in the off-season about changing that, giving them more time postgame? And also Bochy mentioned that there might be a reason to look into reviewing checked swings. Is that a possibility?
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Okay, let me take them one at a time. First of all, you know, this is a game that gets played by rules. The rule with respect to replays at the end of the game literally says you have to notify the umpires immediately of your desire to challenge. Why is it shorter than any other time? It is shorter than any other time because there's no need to have somebody call you on the phone and tell you to challenge because you don't want to waste a challenge. If you have a challenge left, it's the end of the game, use it or it's gone forever. So you can do it immediately. That's what the rule says. It's clearly stated in the replay requirements.
What happened is the umpires waited 34 seconds on the field. That's how long it was. There was no indication from the field manager that he wanted to challenge the play, and I believe the umpires handled the play consistent with the existing rules.
And whether or not that should be changed, I'll tell you, I mean, I'm sure there will be conversation about it, because I've been -- I think I've been in six cities so far in the postseason, and I've been asked about this play in every one of the six. I'm sure we will have some conversation about it in the postseason, but the end of the game is a unique situation. I've already said to you there's no reason that you need to get your video coordinator on the phone. If you have a challenge, you can use it.
Also, a lot of things happen quickly at the end of games. Players throw things, water, Gatorade on other players, players leave the field. Getting people back out on the field, if there's a delay in asking for a challenge, can be a problem.
So I don't know where the competition committee will come out on that. But given the interest in this play, I expect there will be some conversation in the offseason.
But the last thing I want to say, and I want to say it again, the umpires handled that play exactly correctly, given the rules that are currently in place.
With respect to check swings, our concept on replay -- and you need a concept, right, in order to design a system -- has been that we wanted to review and get right impactful plays in a game. I think that the vast majority of the time a check swing call is not really an impactful play in the game and that the additional delay that could take place as a result of adding that type of play to the replay process, probably not worth it, in my mind. Probably not worth it in my mind.
Q. Following up on that, couldn't you say strike three is an impactful play in a game?
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Yeah, balls and strikes is a whole additional sort of line in the sand that we have been reluctant to cross. I just think that once you get into reviewing individual ball/strike calls, you're talking about a level -- the potential for the kind of delay in the game that just is too great for to us bite off.
Anybody else? Okay. Thank you. I hope you all enjoy the game.