ST. LOUIS — Major League Baseball’s new commissioner said he believes some offseason changes have improved the game, and he’s comfortable with the status quo on a few of baseball’s hot topics.
Robert Manfred stopped by St. Louis on Monday as part of his introductory tour, during which he’s giving players and coaching staffs the opportunity to ask any questions they may have. Naturally, new pace-of-play rules have been part of that discussion.
"In one of the meetings, a player put his hand up . .. and he said, ‘You know, we played a 2:38 game yesterday and a bunch of guys got warning letters about violations of the batter’s box,’" Manfred said. "He said, ‘Why is that?’ And the player’s right and we changed the way we’re managing those warnings as a result."
They’re no longer issued during games of a certain length, and Manfred said overall the rules have successfully cut down on unnecessary time taken between pitches and innings. He praised umpires and players for the cooperation, noting average game lengths are down.
The difference from last year is nearly 10 minutes, even with more replays. But that extra time has been worth it, Manfred said, and it’s possible even more cameras could be added to give replay officials additional angles.
A few more changes could be on the way, including spring training games in Cuba as soon as next March. For the most part, though, Manfred doesn’t appear ready to make any sweeping changes despite growing debate on a few key issues.
He doesn’t see any need to change designated hitter rules or the playoff format, which Manfred said provides plenty of excitement with the one-game play-in that debuted in 2012. The commissioner’s office will be closely watching offense as scoring continues to stay low at 4.16 runs per game, just barely above last season.
"It’s obviously a topic of concern, but we haven’t made our minds up as to whether it’s something that will even need to be addressed," Manfred said. "It may self-correct."
The Cardinals have done their part to improve scoring, jumping from 3.82 runs per game in 2014 to 4.18 in 2015.
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said Matt Holliday feels fine and should be ready to go for Monday’s series opener against Milwaukee.
The left fielder missed Friday and Sunday’s wins over the Dodgers with flu-like symptoms that also forced him to leave Saturday’s loss in the fifth inning. Despite those issues, he still managed to draw a walk and extend his NL-record on-base streak to start a season to 44 games.
He’ll be joined in the oufield by center fielder Jon Jay and right fielder Jason Heyward. Matheny said it wasn’t easy to make a lineup without rookie Randal Grichuk, who is hitting 8 for 23 (.348) with two doubles and a home run over his last seven games.
"Randal Grichuk’s gunning for a (starting spot) and that’s what a young player’s supposed to do when they get an opportunity," Matheny said. "More than anything else, just kind of we’re going to watch matchups and it looked like somebody could be a good match, one that could be tough, and we kind of mix and match who we think is going to be the best fit for us."