Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred held a press conference in Arizona on Tuesday, and he wasn’t pleased with negotiation discussions that took place between the MLB Players Association and the league over the offseason. Manfred said that there would be “no meaningful change” for rules of any kind due to the “lack of cooperation” on the part of the MLBPA.
Among those discussed were time limits for mound visits, raising the strike zone above the knees, and erasing the four-pitch intentional walk. Manfred made no attempt to hide his frustration with how the negotiations went, saying that the two sides were closing in on agreements, but that they ultimately broke down.
“We didn’t make a deal,” he said. “We couldn’t make a deal (on the most basic of changes).”
To that end, Manfred put forth the statement that in 2018, per the collective bargaining agreement, MLB will have unilateral power to enforce rules as they see fit, without the players’ consent. Manfred expressed anger with regards to the MLBPA’s unwillingness to capitulate to any sort of rule changes.
It’s unknown why the Players Association agreed to give up that kind of leverage, but Manfred said that MLB will send a letter to the MLBPA to inform the union of proposals that they’d still like to see for the 2018 season. Manfred said he’d prefer if the two sides could come to an agreement on changes instead of having MLB implement them without consent.
In other words: agree to the terms MLB wants, or see them forced on the players regardless.
According to Ken Rosenthal’s Facebook page, Union chief Tony Clark didn’t agree with the idea that the players association was not cooperating.
"Unless your definition of 'cooperation' is blanket approval, I don't agree that we've failed to cooperate with the Commissioner's office on these issues.
"Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this off season we've been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened.
"I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don't continue, notwithstanding today's comments about implementation. As I've said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open.
"My understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (two minute limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of Game warning/fine adjustments."
Also included in Manfred’s comments was the topic of the proposed rule to start a runner at second base in extra innings.
“We see that as a special purpose rule that was beneficial in developmental leagues,” Manfred said, adding that “it's not about time of game. It's about pace and action.”
But that’s not how the proposal was laid out in previous comments made by chief baseball officer Joe Torre. The intention was for a trial period in the minors, with the intent to carry the rule over into the major leagues because of the length of games and negative affect on the pitchers/roster.
Among other topics discussed were plans for an MLB All-Star Game at the Cubs’ Wrigley Field, currently undergoing renovations, and the future of the World Baseball Classic. Nothing firm has been said about making Wrigley a future stop for the Midsummer Classic, but the idea is of interest.
Manfred also said that the WBC will remain in operation for as long as he’s commissioner, but noted that stronger participation from the United States team would greatly increase the tournament’s exposure and attraction.