Manfred: More safety netting being discussed
PHILADELPHIA -- Commissioner Rob Manfred said discussions regarding extended safety netting at Major League ballparks are ongoing and that he hopes to make a recommendation to owners during quarterly meetings in Dallas in November.
Manfred made his remarks before Thursday night's game at Citizens Bank Park, a 9-5 Mets win over the Phillies in 13 innings, as he completed his goal of visiting all 30 clubs after succeeding Bud Selig in January.
"This is a topic that is of serious concern, not only to me but more importantly to all 30 owners," Manfred said. "We discussed it in August [at the Owners Meetings in Chicago]. We have a process ongoing where we are examining all of the relevant information.
"So I think our goal to is to put the Commissioner's Office in a position where we can make a complete recommendation to ownership in November and give people an opportunity to be ready to make changes for next year if in fact we decide that changes are necessary. Our goal is to get the process complete in a way that would allow us, if we decide to make a change, that it would be deployed in April."
MLB has studied where balls and bats most frequently go into the stands, solicited fan input and examined various sorts of netting. Because every park has a unique design, one-size-fits-all regulations aren't practical.
"I suspect we would adopt industry guidelines," Manfred said. "But there is going to be some individual decision-making here because of the design of ballparks. They are so different. Frankly, when we started to look at it, you lose track of how different they really are. It's more of a challenge to devise meaningful guidelines for the industry because the ballparks are so different. So it's going to be a combination of the two."
In the second inning on Thursday at Citizens Bank Park, a woman was hit by a foul ball off the bat of Phils shortstop Freddy Galvis. She was sitting just to the side of the net behind home plate. She got up and walked away on her own. The team told The Associated Press she was evaluated at the ballpark and did not need to go to the hospital.
Before Manfred's news conference, he met with members of the Phillies' front office. Afterward Manfred, who had headed up labor negotiations as part of his duties before becoming Commissioner, met with the Phils' players.
"It's been really interesting to have a chance to talk to the players outside of the collective bargaining process," Manfred said. "Over the years, that's really where I've had the most exchange. It's been a really positive dialogue with the players. I think the dialogue has been helpful to the game, particularly on the issue of pace of game. I just think it's healthy to have an exchange with all of the players outside of the more formal context of trying to make an agreement."
Manfred gave an example: On the day he visited the Mariners, MLB had just started to phase in warning letters for players who may have taken a little too much time getting ready to hit or deliver a pitch.
"One of the players said to me, 'We played a 2:40 game yesterday, and we came in today and four guys had warning letters.' We went back after that and we altered the system," Manfred said. "We don't issue warnings if we have a game that's less than 2:40. And I think it's that kind of input that I find to be the most important. They're asking you something to get you thinking of whether you're in the right place."
Manfred also fielded questions about smokeless tobacco and pitchers using substances to get a better grip on the ball.
The former came about in response to the mayor of San Francisco signing an ordinance in May that bans chewing tobacco from all its fields, including AT&T Park.
Manfred pointed out that smokeless tobacco has been banned in the Minor Leagues for years and added that he expects the issue to be part of the negotiations for the new Basic Agreement. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after next season.
"There are twin concerns here," Manfred said. "There's the health of our players, but there's also the example it sets for young people. This effort with local ordinances, I think, has put a spotlight on the issue."
Television cameras appeared to show a substance on the glove of Astros pitcher Mike Fiers while he was no-hitting the Dodgers last Friday. It's common for pitchers to use something to improve their grip; it's technically illegal. But balls that are slippery could also be a health hazard for hitters.
Manfred said he wouldn't comment directly on the Houston situation, but added: "We have enough issues with respect to gripping the ball that we are looking at the issue of what does the ball feel like? How tacky? Why are people interested in making it more tacky? That's just part of our normal ongoing review of how the game is played and is an issue we'll have some conversation about in the offseason."