Manfred says pace of game rules crucial to luring young fans
PHOENIX (AP) — Commissioner Rob Manfred says new rules intended to speed up the pace of games are aimed at luring younger fans to baseball.
Manfred, speaking publicly on the changes for the first time since they were announced last Friday, said the rules are a "measured" approach worked out with the players’ association.
This season, batters will be required to have one foot in the batter’s box and pitchers and batters will be required to be ready to go at the conclusion of television commercials.
"The issue of attracting a younger audience and a pace of game is related," he said.
Manfred said he has four children in their 20s.
"I have a passing familiarity with that generation," he said, "and one thing I can say for sure is their attention span seems to be shorter than the rest of ours."
Last season, the average length of a major league game was a record 3 hours, 2 minutes.
"I certainly want to reverse the trend of increasing the length of the game," Manfred said, "and I’m really intent on the idea that we’re going to have an average game time that’s going to start with a `two’ next year as opposed to a `three.’"
The commissioner spoke at a news conference on spring training media day, an event that draws the managers and general managers from the 15 clubs that train in Arizona.
Any rules changes have to be done with the cooperation of the players’ association, Manfred said.
"I talked with (players union executive director) Tony Clark on Thursday, the night before the changes were announced," Manfred said. "I had a very positive conversation with Tony. We began these discussions with a conceptual understanding between Tony and me that we were going to proceed with caution on pace of the game."
He said they wanted to make sure nothing was done to "change the way the game is played."
Manfred declined to speculate on what might be done if the rule changes don’t have the desired result.
"I have said repeatedly that I think pace of play is going to be an ongoing, multi-year evolutions," Manfred said, "a series of changes over a period of time. We were pleased with the experiment with a pitch clock in the Arizona Fall League. We were pleased enough with the experiment that it was expanded it to Double-A and Triple-A.
"I have no set position with respect to whether we’re going to go beyond that at this point," he said.
He said, "The reason we’re doing experimentation is to make sure we understand it really well before we make a decision on what we’re going to do at the big league level. And obviously that’s a (collective) bargaining topic as well."
A sampling of managers showed they are in favor of the new rules.
"I don’t think it’s going to be a major adjustment," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. "Except for a few guys."
"There’s guys you sit there in the dugout and then they take 45 seconds in between pitchers," he said. "I’m like, `Get your tail in there and let’s go.’ That (the rules) hopefully will eliminate that."
With stricter rules in the minors, the next generation will be accustomed to a faster pace, Arizona manager Chip Hale said.
"It’s going to take some time," he said. "Once you get this generation of minor league kids that are even under harder rules to the big leagues, you’ll see them play the game quicker. And you might not even have to have rules."
Players are subject to a possible $500 fine for violating the batter’s box rule. Manfred said the names of those fined will not be made public.
As for the drop in offense in the majors, Manfred said he’s waiting to see if it really is a problem before considering any changes to help.
He was asked about the possibility of eliminating the call of low strikes.
`If and when we reach the conclusion that we have a lack of offense problem that’s persistent and needs to be addressed," he said, "there’s a list of topics that we’ve thought about and that is one on the list."
Manfred said it was just speculation of possible action when he earlier spoke of eliminating defensive shifts.
On another matter, Manfred said whether he would do anything about Pete Rose’s ban from baseball "will depend on whether or when I receive a request from Mr. Rose."
"I’m not going to comment on the substance of Mr. Rose’s situation since ultimately I have to make that decision," Manfred said. "But the process will be set as a result of private communications between Mr. Rose and my office."