MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has a number of issues on his plate this offseason.
Jeff Curry/Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
BOCA RATON, Fla.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred remains hopeful a big-league team will play an exhibition game in Cuba during spring training.
President Barack Obama announced in December his intention to restore diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba, and embassies were re-established in July.
Article continues below ...
”There are a variety of issues involved there, not all of which are wholly within baseball’s control,” Manfred said Tuesday at the general managers meetings. ”Obviously, the federal government has some significant influence on whether that’s going to take place, and there are issues that need to be solved before that can happen.”
U.S. teams played spring training games in Cuba before Fidel Castro’s revolution but none appeared there from March 1959 until the Baltimore Orioles faced Cuba’s national team in Havana in March 1999. MLB has not returned since.
”We got a little time still. There isn’t really a firm cutoff,” Manfred said. ”We’re going to proceed internally and get to the point where we’ve sort of identified who would go, meaning which club would go if we can get it done. And one club maintaining flexibility with respect to a spring training date is a lot easier than 25 clubs maintaining that flexibility.”
Manfred said ballpark differences make it impractical to have identical protective netting at all 30 big league venues. The commissioner’s office has been discussing the issue with teams following a series of injuries to fans from foul balls this year. Owners will talk about the matter when they meet in Dallas on Dec. 18-19.
”If you go out and look at the ballparks, it becomes evident that a simple uniform – for example you’re going to net to the edge of the dugout – is not workable, given the variation in designs of the stadium,” Manfred said. ”It’s going to have to be a little more complicated than that if, in fact, we move ahead.”
Manfred remains on track to decide Pete Rose’s application for reinstatement by the end of next month.
Then Cincinnati’s manager, Rose agreed in 1989 to a lifetime ban from baseball after an MLB investigation concluded he bet on games involving the Reds while managing and playing. Manfred met with the career hits leader Sept. 24.
”The end of the year is my deadline,” Manfred said. ”I’m not telling you that this is coming Dec. 30 or whatever. It will be done before the end of the year, let me be clear about that.”
”There will be dialogue on that topic with this group this week. There will be dialogue with the owners next week and we will continue our conversations with the MLBPA on this topic,” Manfred said. ”We see this as a player safety issue and we want to make sure we’re in the right place without committing to whether there’s going to be a change or not.”
"We don’t want to have guys carried off the field," Joe Torre, MLB’s chief baseball officer, said Wednesday. "Obviously, you can’t lose sight of what the game is about. You don’t want somebody just not trying to get to second base and not trying to keep the inning going. It’s a thin line that you have to walk, and that’s why it’s really tough to put pen to paper."
MLB banned plate collisions ahead of the 2014 season following intense debate that began in May 2011, when the Marlins’ Scott Cousins crashed into Buster Posey. San Francisco’s All-Star catcher sustained a broken bone in his lower left leg and three torn ligaments in his ankle, an injury that ended his season.
"I didn’t think there could be anything that you could do when Posey went down a few years ago," Torre said. "You sort of felt forced partly because when I was working in the office I’d get letters from parents whose kids were playing in the minor leagues who got carried off the field." Torre said additional pressure came from former catcher and current St. Louis manager Mike Matheny, who talked "about losing 18 months of his life, where you can’t recall."
MLB said the number of days catchers were unavailable to play due to contact at home plate dropped 62 percent from 2011-13 to 2014-15.
Following the start of a federal investigation into whether St. Louis Cardinals employees hacked into a Houston Astros’ database, Manfred spoke to GMs about intellectual property and plans to have the issue on the agenda for next week’s owners’ meeting.
”It’s an issue upon which we will give advice to the individual clubs to make sure that they negotiate individual contract provisions that are protective of what they feel they need to protect,” he said. ”Twenty-five years ago or 30 years ago, intellectual property in this business was what some GM carried around in his head and he was going to take with him when he left. … Today the business has changed.”
Manfred hopes to avoid a third consecutive season in which Time Warner Cable SportsNet LA, which televises most Dodgers games, is unavailable to many homes in the market. Charter Communications announced in May it plans to buy Time Warner Cable.
”I’m hopeful that there are dynamics in play beyond baseball in terms of corporate activity that may create some flexibility and hopefully we will get a resolution in time for the 2016 season.” he said.
ALL-STAR GAME AT WRIGLEY FIELD
Wrigley Field last hosted an All-Star Game in 1990. MLB already has announced the All-Star Game will be played in San Diego next year, followed by Miami in 2017 and Washington in 2018.
”It’s a question of how far out we want to be committed right now,” Manfred said.
Tampa Bay hopes with a change in members following this year’s election, the St. Petersburg City Council will allow the team to explore other sites in the area for a new ballpark.
”I believe that Tampa-St. Pete is a viable major-league market with the right facility,” Manfred said.
AROUND THE HORN
** With more runners called out on slides when they pop up off a base as fielders keep tags on them in the hope of winning a video review, Torre said MLB plans to review the issue.
** MLB Chief Legal Officer Dan Halem said the sport hopes to play regular-season games in Europe within five years and return to Mexico for the first time since 1999.
** Halem said it is not likely each team’s regular-season schedule will be shortened from 162 games to 154.