MLB commissioner: Pace of play an issue all of baseball must focus on

MLB commissioner: Pace of play an issue all of baseball must focus on

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- For those rooting for baseball to speed up the game, Commissioner Rob Manfred says: have patience.

Owners and players ratified a new collective bargaining agreement in December, but they're still negotiating innovations designed to improve the pace of play. Owners discussed the issue during two days of meetings that concluded Friday.

"We did review some rule changes largely related to pace of game that are being discussed with the players' association," Manfred said. "More to follow when those negotiations are complete."

Manfred has pushed for faster games since he became commissioner two years ago. But the average time of a nine-inning game last season was 3 hours, a 4-minute increase over 2015. One playoff game took more than 4½ hours.

The new CBA, which extends labor peace to 26 years through 2021, addresses issues such as smokeless tobacco and World Series home-field advantage but not on-field rules.

"Given the really serious big economic issues on the table, I think it's unrealistic to think that you're going to get an agreement (regarding pace of play) when you're doing the overall agreement," Manfred said. "As is the usual course in the offseason, we're turning to the playing rule issues now."

Management would like to tighten restrictions on trips to the mound and introduce a pitch clock, which has been used in Triple-A and Double-A the past two seasons. Players generally have resisted such changes, and many say there's no problem with the length of games.

Manfred disagrees.

"Pace of play is an issue that 'we' need to be focused on," he said. "The 'we' there is players, owners, umpires, everyone who is invested in this game.

"I don't think there's a magic bullet that is going to come one year to be the solution to pace of play. It's going to be an ongoing effort to make sure our game moves along in a way that is most attractive to our fans."

Miami Marlins president David Samson said Major League Baseball is aware that despite much talk about the need to speed up games in recent years, the problem has gotten worse.

"Pace of game is critical," Samson said. "We know that from our fans and TV partners. We have to recognize the reality of life today, which is that attention spans are going down and choices are going up. Whatever business you're in, you have to adjust."

A's and Giants poised to feel ripple effects of James Paxton trade


A's and Giants poised to feel ripple effects of James Paxton trade

The first blockbuster trade of the MLB offseason occurred on Monday, the ripple effects of which could significantly impact both the A's and Giants.

The Seattle Mariners sent ace left-hander James Paxton to the New York Yankees in exchange for Justus Sheffield -- their No. 1 prospect -- and two other minor leaguers. The Yankees have long been rumored as a potential trade partner for the Giants in a deal centering around starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner, so Monday's trade of Paxton would seem to impact the Giants in two distinct ways.

First, the Paxton trade essentially sets the market for what the return on a potential Bumgarner deal would look like. Additionally, it's possible this removes the Yankees from that list of potential trade partners. The Giants would likely be looking for young prospects in exchange for Bumgarner, and New York's farm system is now that much more depleted.

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For the A's, the Paxton trade would seemingly improve their chances within the AL West next season. Seattle no longer has an ace, and if reports are to be believed, this may just be the beginning of a Mariners' fire sale.

Prior to the Paxton trade, the Mariners set that plan in motion by sending catcher Mike Zunino to the Tampa Bay Rays. With their top battery now elsewhere, Seattle has turned their attention to contending in 2021 rather than 2019, according to MLB Insiders Jon Heyman and Jeff Passan.

So, if this is just the beginning of a Mariners fire sale, what other dominoes might fall? What other players might be available for trade, and which of those -- if any -- would make sense for either of the Bay Area teams?

If the 2019 season began today, the Mariners would possess the fifth-highest payroll of any MLB team, and that's after shipping Paxton's contract east. A bloated team salary and full-on rebuild don't often go hand-in-hand, so it would make sense if they tried to unload some of their higher salaried players, such as second basemen Dee Gordon and Robinson Cano and third baseman Kyle Seager.

Of those three players, none would seem to make a lot of sense for either the A's or Giants.

Oakland's 2019 payroll is the third-lowest in the league, they're fairly loaded at those positions, and their financials have never been as robust as the team across the Bay. 

The Giants, though, aren't likely to be racing to the phone to negotiate for one of the three aforementioned veterans either. Disregarding positional fits, the Giants could very well be on their way to a rebuild of their own, and they actually rank fourth in the league in 2019 payroll, right above Seattle. San Francisco has their own set of albatross contracts, and are unlikely to be interested in adding another -- certainly not without sending at least one the other direction.

Still, if the Mariners are intent on selling off assets, it can't hurt the A's or Giants to inquire. Beyond those three larger salaried players, the Mariners have several players on their roster that would be of interest to other teams, a few of which could make a lot of sense for Oakland or San Francisco, depending on what the cost would be.


Want to hate Baseball Hall of Fame voting process less? Here are six ways


Want to hate Baseball Hall of Fame voting process less? Here are six ways

The Baseball Writers Association of America, an embarrassingly ragtag and shamefully absurd group (this analysis is based solely on the basis that I am allowed to be a member), issued the annual ballot for the Hall of Fame Monday, and there is good news.

The bitching, whining, proselytizing and tub-thumping will be every bit as fevered and tedious as it always is. In a world in which the ozone layer is being replaced by rampant gasbaggery, this is clearly the gift that keeps on taking.

But there it is anyway -- 35 names on a sheet of paper, 400-some-odd eligible voters of different ages and experience levels, geographic areas and social strata (nerd, old coot, geek, contrarian, nimrod, mathdroid, drunk, science-based drunk – you name it, they’re all there), and over the next six weeks almost all of them will steal cheap columns of slow news days to disguise as actual work.

Like this one.

Point is, while the system has become slowly more flexible without actually achieving true flexibility, the assaults on the public have not. For every useful analysis, there are three to five “I’m voting for these guys because I’m smart and everyone else is human garbage, and don’t @ me because I’m really important” pieces.

Well, I will provide neither. Last year, my opinion counted for barely two-tenths of one percent of the electorate, and the number will probably be about the same this time. I release my vote on election day every year, and that’s good enough for you hyenas.

Instead, I'll use this space to remind you of a few things that may help you hate the process a little less. Not a lot less, mind you – we like hatred in our sports discussions, which is one reason why the meteor cannot arrive too soon.

But here’s a reminder on why the real lure of the Hall of Fame is all the ways the Hall of Fame annoys.


When someone explains to you with undue haughtiness why their ballot is the zenith of the intellectual process, that person should be ignored as though he or she were a drunk trying to pick a fight with a goat. When in doubt, your argument should speak for you, not the other way around. But that’s in an ideal world. In this one, people tend to like acting like gods so that they can shout at all the other gods.


This isn’t the North Korean Politburo. If someone doesn’t vote for Mariano Rivera, then someone doesn’t vote for Mariano Rivera. He still gets in, so un-knot your delicates. Opinions aren’t worth having if they require agreement with everyone else’s opinions. I mean, did Jacob deGrom feel less joyous about the Cy Young Award because he didn’t receive all the first-place votes? No. He’s probably still hammered today. In other words, don’t be a bully for the hive mind. Let another viewpoint live. Let a thousand pot plants bloom.


Maybe your guy just isn’t that popular, or that good. Yes, as ridiculous as it seems, you might actually be backing the wrong horse, and in honesty, that’s okay. You get to do that. Besides, the only places voters ever meet is at the bar, and mostly can’t remember what they talked about an hour later. Of all the Halls of Fame, this is the one that colludes the least.


No promises have been breached, no contracts has been violated. It’s an award, not a hereditary peerage guaranteed by law. It would be nice if your favorite player got a plaque and a weekend in upstate New York, but not everything is an injustice, let alone an outrage. That is, until it’s your guy.


Those who want the Hall of Fame to be a museum that accurately portrays the game for all its good and bad don’t get what they want, which is a profound disappointment for those of us who think Arnold Rothstein hasn’t gotten his due. Rather, the Hall of Fame is marketing wrapped around promotion, like all Halls of Fame are. More people in a position to decide these things want it to be a profitable shrine. They are of course wrong, but hey, if you don’t like the Hall of Fame, go make one of your own. 


But its biggest flaw is all the whingeing about how it is flawed. Could it use more voters without becoming the People’s Choice Awards? Yes. Could it use more spaces on the ballot? Sure. Does there really need to be a time limit on eligibility? Not really. But a voting system without quirks is a voting system that passes without notice, and the truest truth about the American electorate is that we love democracy because it allows us to bitch about democracy.

And don’t forget about Arnold Rothstein, especially when baseball embraces gambling for the piece of the action it can take from it. Rothstein wasn’t just a rank criminal. He was also a visionary. If anyone has a plaque coming, it’s him.