Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred reiterated that the Astros are off the hook for videotaping the Red Sox dugout during Game 1 of the ALCS after an investigation revealed no wrongdoing.
“I think our press release said that with respect to the individual there, we finished what we could do from an investigative perspective. We didn’t have any evidence of a violation that merited discipline and we considered the matter closed,” Manfred said following a Roberto Clemente Award press conference at Fenway Park prior to Game 2 of the World Series Wednesday night.
“I think it’s really important to think through what the rules are, OK? Sign stealing in and of itself is not a violation of our rules. It’s been a part of our game since Lassie was a puppy. Where it becomes a problem is where there is a use of technology that otherwise violates our rules to aid the sign-stealing process.
“I think technology is evolving at a rate that it’s incumbent upon us to constantly review and update our rules. I know we made some changes going into the postseason this year in terms of additional security personnel in video rooms to make sure the replay was used for the appropriate purposes, we had people present in bullpens because there were some concerns expressed, and we actually limited the use of some type of club cameras. I think it will be a continuing topic of discussion in the off-season, probably have some changes for next year,” Manfred said.
Manfred also touched on a few other topics.
■ In reference to offseason negotiations with the union on topics of interest:
“Well, I spent a lot of time between the All-Star Game and here talking directly to Tony [Clark, executive director of the MLPA], trying to map out the things that we’d like to have meaningful conversation about during the offseason, putting him in a position to get prepared to do that by being out with his guys, and that dialogue has been positive and I’m looking forward to having those conversations.”
■ On strikeouts becoming more prevalent than hits:
“We pay attention obviously to what’s going on on the field. I think the most interesting development in the postseason is that there’s a lot of chatter about the fact that Boston and Houston are teams, particularly with two strikes, that put the ball in play. Usually in baseball when you see a lot of success associated with something that’s a little different than what a lot of people are doing, it begins an organic movement back in that direction, and we’re hopeful that we see some of that. I think it’s one of the charms of the game, that the game does evolve organically. You can take a snapshot of it one day and say maybe you don’t like it, but it has a way of correcting itself.”
■ How about these four-hour postseason games?
“I don’t think you can un-do people working really hard to gain an advantage in terms of winning a game obviously within the rules. Playoff games, because it’s a huge stage, are always going to be a little longer. Having said that, we will continue to make every effort to make our game as crisp and have as little dead time as possible.”
■ Are starting pitchers being diminished?
“I do think that starters being on the field less presents yet another challenge for us in terms of marketing the game. Look, historically right, some of our greatest stars are starters, and if they’re out there less, it has a predictable effect.”
Why can’t the games start earlier?
“You know it’s interesting, we were pretty regular on 8:39 starts for a long time. We are starting earlier, we’re starting at 8:09. And look, there is a little bit of East Coast prejudice in these questions. Remember, I think LA is in the Western time zone. We are cognizant of the fact that we’re trying to serve those fans as well. I understand game times can be difficult, it’s hard when games finish late. By the same token, when you start games at 5:00 Eastern, it’s in the middle of the workday in LA, that’s not quite right either. We’re trying to strike a balance and get the point, the window, where we can get the most people, all across the country, have a meaningful opportunity to watch the game.”
■ Would it be a problem if the players or manager of the winning team refuse to go to the White House based on the politics of the relief efforts in Puerto Rico and like subjects?
“All I want to say on that topic is I think as an institution, MLB has always had the greatest respect for the office of the presidency. That doesn’t change, no matter who’s there. Often we’ve had situations where individuals, players, whatever, don’t agree with all of the policies of the individual that occupies the office. I think the important thing is respect for the office.”
■ Will the opener (reliever starting the game) continue to grow?
“Look, I think whether the opener continues to grow is going to be a product of application of analytics to see how the results turn out, does it in fact put you in a position to win? I do think that it can be a useful strategy for clubs in certain type of economic situations. It’s really hard to argue with that based on the early returns. We’ll see how the returns look over the long haul.”
■ Are analytics making the game less entertaining?
“Look, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about whether analytics are a good thing or a bad thing. And the reason for that is, they are a real thing. We have them, they’re going to continue to use them, there’s nothing you can do to stop people from thinking about the game however the heck it is they want to think about the game. I think what’s incumbent upon us, what we try to do is pay attention over the course of the season, try not to get too distracted from the really great postseason we’re having and thinking about what we’ve learned during the postseason and see if we need to make any response to what we’re seeing.
■ It was so hard to find games on FS1:
“Look, we would always prefer to have the broadcast outlet that gives us the broadest possible audience. Fox under the current deal had the right to put that game on FS1. We made that deal and we’re gonna live up to it. That was part of the deal. We knew that was a possibility when the deal was struck.”