Manfred: MLB proactive against violence
At GM Meetings, Commissioner discusses Reyes arrest, potential games in Cuba
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Commissioner Rob Manfred addressed the assembled executives at the annual General Managers Meetings on Tuesday morning, then fielded questions from the media at the Boca Raton Resort & Club.
Manfred covered a variety of topics, including the increase in scoring in the second half of the season, the recent arrest of Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes on domestic violence charges and the possibility of exhibition games being held in Cuba next spring.
A decrease in scoring in 2014 and early in the '15 season led some to call for rules changes to create more offense in the game.
"We had a really interesting uptick in offense late in the year this year -- I mean a statistically significant increase in scoring," Manfred said. "We're not going to jump too quickly on this one. We really want to understand what's happening in the game. Our game is too great to be willy-nilly making changes thinking that you're going to address a problem that may not be a problem at all."
Manfred added that he's not concerned that this could indicate players have found a way around Major League Baseball's drug-testing policies, widely considered the model for all sports.
"We are constantly vigilant on the issue of performance-enhancing drugs," Manfred said. "It's not just that we have a testing program that's now on autopilot. It's out there, and we punch that ticket. [Chief Legal Officer] Dan Halem and his group spend an inordinate amount of time working with the groups like USADA and WADA to make sure that we know what are the very latest developments that are going on with respect to performance-enhancing drugs. I don't know how to say it more clearly than, whether or not we have an uptick in offense, we are constantly vigilant on this topic."
Manfred was awakened Monday night and informed of Reyes' arrest, which occurred Oct. 31 in Hawaii. MLB has been at the forefront of developing a strong domestic violence policy.
"We felt good about the policy when we negotiated it [with the MLB Players Association]. I think this is the first test, and I think it will stand the test," Manfred said. "I think the key from our perspective was being proactive and negotiating what we see as a comprehensive policy with the MLBPA, so everybody knows how the process is going to work and how we're going to move forward together.
"The second word I'd like to emphasize there is comprehensive. This is not just a discipline policy. It is a policy that requires evaluation, counseling and a variety of other activities in addition to the disciplinary component."
Baseball is still working on trying to schedule exhibition games in Cuba next spring.
"I'm still committed to the idea that it would be a good thing for baseball to be able to play in Cuba next spring," Manfred said. "There really isn't a firm [deadline]. We're going to proceed internally and sort of get to the point where we've identified who would go. One club maintaining flexibility with respect to a Spring Training date is a lot easier than 25 clubs maintaining that flexibility [regarding] the theory that they don't know who we're going to pick to go. That's how we're going to try to manage the issue and maintain our flexibility as long as we possibly can."
At least three issues that will be discussed at next week's Owners Meetings in Dallas are on the agenda at the GM Meetings: Rules changes regarding sliding into second base, safety netting at ballparks and the need for teams to protect their intellectual property.
The first is a safety issue that must be decided in conjunction with the MLBPA. The second must balance protecting fans from foul balls and broken bats and the desire of those who buy prime seats behind the dugouts to have unobstructed views during games. The third has come about as teams have developed proprietary computer systems; there is an ongoing investigation into the possibility that the Cardinals may have accessed information from the Astros.
"I think it's a result of us realizing that 25 years ago or 30 years ago, intellectual property in this business was what some GM carried around with him in his head and he was going to take it with him when he left, and there wasn't much you could do about that," Manfred said. "Today, the business has changed. The advice we're giving clubs on this is reflective of the fact that we understand that the business has changed."
Manfred also touched on the fact that many fans in the Los Angeles market still can't watch Dodgers games on television because of a cable dispute.
"My concern could not be higher," Manfred said. "Hopefully we'll get a resolution in time for the 2016 season."
Manfred also discussed the following topics:
• The fact that Washington, D.C., will host the 2018 All-Star Game doesn't eliminate Baltimore as an option in the near future.
• Renovations at Wrigley Field aren't an obstacle to the Cubs hosting the Midsummer Classic.
• Manfred is optimistic that the Rays will resolve their stadium situation.
• Manfred is committed to having a decision regarding Pete Rose's petition for reinstatement by the end of the year.