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Oct. 5 Commissioner Rob Manfred pregame interview

October 5, 2016

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Good afternoon, the really hardy group was in Toronto with me last night, so it's good to see you again. I'm excited to be here for this second of the Wild Card games. We had a fantastic night in Toronto last night. Just a great ballgame, and I

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Good afternoon, the really hardy group was in Toronto with me last night, so it's good to see you again. I'm excited to be here for this second of the Wild Card games. We had a fantastic night in Toronto last night. Just a great ballgame, and I hope we get equally entertaining product out there tonight. It does help me. No New York travel, so it's a good thing.
With that, I'm happy to take questions.
Q. I'm curious what you think of the Mets agreement with Tim Tebow where he's allowed to take time off to do his SEC Network broadcasting gig?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Well, look, we've had situations in the past where you've had people, multi-sport people, people with other careers where clubs have made accommodations during a period of time that you're trying to figure out whether they're really going to be a Major League player.
I think it's a good thing. We need to attract the best athletes to our game. And he's obviously a great athlete. Hopefully it turns out that he's a great baseball player.
Q. After the fan throwing incident in Toronto both last year and last night, is MLB getting involved with the Blue Jays in additional security steps, and if so, what?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Yeah, we've talked to the Blue Jays, I think most important, we are working very hard to locate the individual involved. I think from a deterrent perspective, it's important to follow up and make sure that he's prosecuted to the extent available. We've also talked to the Blue Jays about the policies with respect to the serving of alcohol. No cans, those sorts of things, to make sure that we have as positive an environment going forward as possible.
Q. What do you think of the domestic violence policy so far? Sandy said yesterday that Jose has complied with everything and continues to comply with the conditions that he needs to comply with. What do you think of the program? Do you think it needs any changes? Are you happy with it so far?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: I'm proud of the domestic violence policy. I think it's an example of baseball working with The Players Association to get a collectively bargained policy in place that allowed us to deal with a number of rather difficult situations. Basically by agreement. No litigation, I think that's a good thing. I think the important aspects of the policy are not the disciplinary ones. Solely.
But in addition to having a good discipline policy, I think it's a policy that provides for education, support, the things that are necessary to allow the player and whoever else is involved to move forward in a positive way. As with everything in our collective bargaining agreement, I'm sure there will be adjustments and changes as a result of the collective bargaining process, but I don't want to get into the ones on domestic violence or collective bargaining topics generally. It's just better left in the room until we get an agreement.
Q. Regarding your comments yesterday about the Minor League pay scale, the administrative burden of applying it aside, do you believe that the pay scale needs to be revised and raised to help some of these Minor Leaguers have a more living wage?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Look, I think that it's important to realize that a lot of the information out there about what Minor League players are paid and make ignores things like signing bonuses that are paid in advance, that are often very large sums of money. In an effort to -- I don't want to get into a conversation about the actual wage levels, because we have ongoing litigation. It's just an uncomfortable spot for us to be.
But I will reiterate what I said last night. This is not about the economics so much as it is about the feasibility of applying rules that were meant for hourly workers in traditional work settings to Minor League baseball players. These are more like apprenticeship programs or artistic pursuits where there are explicit exceptions to the wage and hour requirements.
Q. You've had so much excitement in these Wild Card games, are you committed to making sure they remain one game apiece?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: I'm a huge fan of the one-game Wild Card games. I think it is very positive for the game in terms of getting our playoffs off to the most exciting start possible. Fans love knockout games, and I think it's important never to lose sight of the fact it's about what the fans like, at the end of the day.
I think that the Wild Card addition has really helped us in terms of our late season play. I think we had six meaningful games on Sunday. That's fantastic for our fans as well. So I see it as a double benefit. It makes the end of the season more exciting and it gets our playoffs off to a great start.
Q. Just in terms of the designated hitter rule, do you expect there to be any changes to the DH rule in the upcoming agreement? Also, just in the longer term, where do you see this ultimately landing when you think long-term in baseball? Do you see the DH as effectively staying separate in two leagues? Do you see an expansion of roster that changes it? What are your long-term plans as well?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: I think the designated rule has effectively landed. I think the status quo is where it effectively landed. I understand people like to talk about the rule. I think it is important in terms of identifying the two leagues. I mean, they are, after all, our principal competitive device, right? We play to the World Series, and it differentiates the play in the two leagues, and I think that's a good thing.
Candidly, if you asked me to list ten rules that I'd like to change, I could give you ten, and the DH would not be one of them. I think there are other things that are probably more interesting for our fans than making the DH rule common across the two leagues.
Q. I wanted to follow up on the incident in Toronto last night. Is that an issue that's just confined to Toronto specifically, or are there measures across the sport that baseball needs to take to ensure that positive experience that you talked about?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: I think has taken is really the appropriate tense. I don't think there is another ballpark where beer is served in cans, for example. We've worked really hard to make sure through the team program and other things to make sure that alcohol is served and consumed in a responsible way in all of our ballparks. I think that one of the reasons last night attracted so much attention is it's an unusual -- rare may be a better word -- event in one of our ballparks.
Q. Is there anything new on the hacking scandal involving the Cardinals? Could you see that being something that you don't resolve until next year?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: It will not be a next-year resolution. We are in the process of finishing up our investigation. Candidly, I wish it had gone a little faster. I wish it had gotten a little more help a little sooner from the U.S. attorney's office. But the cards come up how they come up, and we're going to finish our investigation, and there will be a resolution of that during this off-season.
Q. What are the top three issues on your mind tonight that you're facing?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: The top three issues on my mind tonight are making sure that we have a nice, dry weather weekend so that we get a really important slate of games in. We're looking at the forecasts on the way out here, and it looks a little better in terms of Washington and some of those markets, which is very important to us.
I am thinking in terms of off field things a lot about labor. We're at that point in time where we're pretty involved in that process, and I remain hopeful that we'll be able to make an agreement before we get too deep into the off-season. I think people are pretty conversant with what the natural deadlines are there. The third thing is just looking forward to the World Series. The World Series is the pinnacle of our competitive year.
I think we got a really interesting mix of teams in the playoffs and now the potential for having some really exciting match-ups as we work our way up to the World Series.
Q. Just a follow-up on something you said. You said natural deadlines for negotiations. Is that something as simple as the last game of the World Series? Because then you talk about team options five days after that?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Yeah, I think it's the beginning of the free agency process. I think if you look back, '02 was a little different because we had a strike deadline. We played without an agreement. But if you look back at the last two, we finished during the World Series the year that Detroit was in, right, because I missed that World Series. There was the '06 agreement, and then '11 we extended some of those filing deadlines to allow us to finish up. So that's a natural deadline. The expiration date, December 1. I mean, you've got a series of them that come up in the fall.
Q. But in terms of changing the off-season? It would have to be essentially the last game of the World Series?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Right. I mean, we worked very hard the last two times to put ourselves in a position that had some significant changes with respect to the signing system would operate during that first off-season of the new agreement, if you know what I mean.
Q. Going through the playoffs, your broadcast partners are all going to have a little strike zone graphic up on the screen. Is there any thought toward incorporating mechanical strike zones in the future? Also, with regard to replay, is there any thoughts of changing that, especially after we saw what happened in St. Louis on the next to the last day of the season?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Let me do the second one first. I don't view the St. Louis-Cincinnati incident as indicative of any problem with the replay system. There was a call, it was missed. Replay was available via manager challenge and the manager -- if you think about it, the manager elected or did not opt to challenge within the confines of a clearly defined rule. I mean, it says immediate in the rules. And the reason for that immediacy, of course, is once players leave the field -- somebody was talking about it the other day when they were thinking through, why say immediate? Well, there are two really good reasons. Number one, the manager has a challenge left and it's the last play of the game and you have any doubt, there's no reason to hang around and figure out whether you want to use your challenge. You're either using it or you're going home. One or the other. So there's no real reason for delay, number one.
Number two, a lot of things happen quickly after games. People throw Gatorade on people and players get off the field. And bringing folks back out on the field after some of those things have happened in order to continue a game because of a replay call is not appealing.
I think that the St. Louis-Cincinnati situation will remind field managers that at the end of the game, if you're going to do it, you've got to do it in a hurry. And I think that is actually the right rule.
You asked me about the mechanical strike zone. Look, the technology of calling balls and strikes without a human being involved has continued to improve. Sandy Alderson started us down the path of reviewing balls and strikes via technology after the fact. The principal reason that we've always done it after the fact is unlike the box that you see on a broadcast, our system that we use to grade our umpires, someone goes in and manually adjusts the strike zone for the batter. And there are material differences in the strike zone. As technology continues to improve and those sorts of adjustments can be made realtime, that technology will become more feasible for use on the field. I don't believe we are there yet. I don't believe we're there yet.
Q. I wanted to follow up on the St. Louis-Cincinnati answer you just gave. If that happened in a World Series game, you would be satisfied with how a game ended of that importance where clearly a call was missed, replay wasn't used, the umpires didn't initiate a review?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Well, remember, umpire review is available after manager challenges are gone.
Q. Only?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Yeah, yeah. Look, when we rolled replay out, okay, we never said we were going to get every single call correct. That is not an achievable goal. There are going to be parameters that surround the replay rules that balance our desire to get important calls right against the need to actually complete games in less than seven hours. And you're always going to have limitations, right? Numbers of challenges, whether the umpire decides to go, how long you have to make a challenge in order to keep the game moving.
I think on balance, the replay system has improved the game in the sense that we get more important calls correct. We never aspired to say that we're going to get every single one correct.
Q. Do you have any issue with how the umpires handled that particular game? Were they in too much of a hurry to get off the field, for example?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: The umpires, I believe the number is 34 seconds. They waited 34 seconds. The manager did nothing to indicate that he wanted to challenge. The players left the field. Whether the rules are right or not, whether that need to challenge immediately at the end of the game is the right rule or not, they applied the actual rule correctly.
I can tell by your smile you don't agree with me, but, you know, sometimes (laughing). Yeah, look, we do too, we do too. But I do think you have to balance that natural desire to get it right with the practicalities of keeping the game moving.
Q. Following your meeting with the mayor of London, where do you assess the chances for 2018 games there?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: I want to be really, really optimistic about it. I think it's an important thing for us to do. I think it's feasible in terms of facility. That's always question one, do you have someplace to play? I think we would be popular in London. I think we could sell the games. I think we could make money with the undertaking, so it's something that we'll continue to discuss with the Players Association.
I understand that there's travel involved, but if you travel from the east coast to London, it's not all that different than traveling from the east coast to the west coast, which we do all the time.
Q. Your thoughts on pace of play in this past season?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: You know, I don't really like this word. I would say I was a little disappointed on the pace of play issue. We slipped backwards in terms of the time of game. I think we slipped backwards on pace of play, time of game to one side.
I do believe that pace of play is one of those issues where you need a constant reminder on the field. I think if you look at the data we've collected in the Minor Leagues where we have used things like a pitch clock, we don't have a lot of pitch clock violations. The game moves along, the players adjust. But the clock serves as a constant reminder that you've got to move on, and the players adjust and they do it before the clock runs out.
Last year we had a nice year. The game time came down a little bit. But we had a lot of rule changes, the batter's box rule, the inning clock, which serves to keep things in front of the players' minds, and the players were tremendously cooperative.
I think because we did not have those same sort of changes this year, we kind of slipped back a little bit, and we need to refocus our efforts.