Manfred addresses potential rules changes

February 8th, 2019

With negotiations between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association regarding potential rules changes ongoing, Commissioner Rob Manfred stressed Friday that the clubs are focused on pace-of-play initiatives for 2019 and that certain proposals from the players union, such as expanding the designated hitter rule to the National League, are too broad to be implemented this year.

In addressing a number of topics with reporters at the conclusion of the Owners Meetings in Orlando, Fla., Manfred expressed appreciation for the "responsive proposal" MLB received last week to the league's proposal about a pitch clock and a three-batter minimum for relief pitchers within a single inning. But he also stressed the difference between pace-of-play changes and proposals like the universal DH and changes to the amateur Draft that have larger service time and financial ramifications.

"I do think realistically, there are items in this broader agenda [from the players union] that are going to take longer to deal with," Manfred said. "The idea that we're going to agree to the DH in time for the 2019 season … the clock's kind of ticking on that one.

"So I think some of these items need to be part of broader discussions that certainly will continue after Opening Day, and I hope we can focus on some of the issues that need to get resolved quickly in the interim. We'll see how talks go on that."

Manfred explained the rationale behind the three-batter minimum proposal.

"Repeated pitching changes obviously take a lot of time," he said. "They affect the pace of the game. That's one rationale. I think the idea of relievers having to go longer is appealing in terms of promoting the role of the starting pitcher, encouraging pitchers to pitch a little longer at the beginning of the game. You talk about player marketing. Historically, some of our biggest stars are starting pitchers, and you want to make sure those big stars are out there long enough that they are marketed, recognizable, all those good words."

Manfred said MLB received the MLBPA's response to the league's proposals on Feb. 1 and has not yet officially responded.

"There are pieces of their response on the on-field proposal that were very encouraging," Manfred said. "What needs to be sorted out is how closely the two agendas are tied -- in other words, the on-field stuff and the economic stuff."