Peter Gammons: Manfred, MLBPA, Brazil, and more notes from Phoenix

PHOENIX—When Rob Manfred took the Arizona media day to express his frustrations about dealing with the MLB Players Association, it was, in many ways, the Fort Sumter. He explained that pace of game and several other proposals would be postponed for a year “due to a lack of cooperation” from the union, and effectively threatened to impose those rules—which MLB can do under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement—for the 2018 season.

MLBPA Director Tony Clark last weekend said he did not think these changes were needed so quickly. Revenues are at a record high. Average Annual salaries are at an all-time high. And, as Manfred pointed out, for a decade teams have spent 51% of their revenues on salaries. He also pointed out that major and minor league combined attendance are the greatest of any sport.

But the Manfred Administration is trying to continually grow the fan experience. For instance, they are lobbying to have the home teams take batting practice after the visiting teams, after the gates have opened. Presently, home teams take BP first, before the gates open. “During David Ortiz’s run last season, seldom could kids see him hit,” said one official. “It means something for fans to be able to watch their home team take BP. It just makes sense.”

One general manager said, “when teams are on the road, they basically are in the hotel or shopping. They often get to the parks early, anyway. This way home teams can stay at home longer, with their families, and their fans get to see them.”

But whether clubs and the union will agree to that change in lifestyle is another matter. “It should be about fans first for players and clubs,” said another GM at the affair at the Biltmore Hotel yesterday.

But now, will the relationship between MLB and the MLBPA worsen building towards the next labor agreement in 2021?

Almost certainly, especially if the new agreement, with its quasi cap, slows free agency down next winter, as it did this past off-season.

Manfred wants the pace quickened. He’s for a 20 second clock between pitches. He wants to limit visits to the mound. He wants the strike zone, moved up two inches from beneath the “hollow of the knee;” he cited a record low in balls in play, a 67% increase in strikeouts as opposed to a 32% increase in homers. Moving the strike zone up will almost certainly increase contact and balls in play, rather than four or five pitch at-bats for entire games.

We may need a mediator William J. Usery remembrance moment.

Soon.

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Andrew Friedman said that teammates, the coaching staff, front office…everyone…urged him to bring Chase Utley. “It was unanimous,” says Friedman. “We stayed in touch with Chase, and explained we thought we needed a righthand hitting second baseman, and he was fine with it.

‘In fact, one day he told us, ‘you know who I really like? Logan Forsythe.”

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When the Mariners began scouting Brazil five years ago, they signed a young pitcher named Luiz Gohara, whom they traded to Atlanta this winter, for $900,000. “He was the prospect,” says GM Jerry DiPoto. They also signed a college student pitcher from São Paulo named Thyago Vieira. “He spoke three languages (Portuguese, Spanish, English) and they thought he could help Gohara in his cultural assimilation.”

Well, Vieira has turned out to look like Kenley Jansen, has hit 103-104 on radar guns and the M’s think after opening the season in AA he could end up in a big power bullpen with Edwin Diaz, Shae Simmons—acquired for Gohara—and company. Yes, São Paulo has a growing baseball culture thanks to the influx of Japanese who have made São Paulo the second largest Japanese city in the world.

Comments

  1. Well they are spot on with switching the BP times around, I have thought that for years. Just makes to much sense. I hope they can make it a reality, would do a wonder for gameday fan experience.

    • Sammy Biggs says:

      or just open the gates earlier, or do both.

    • The one thing about opening the gates to the home team, though great for the fan, takes away from the preperation that takes place during home games. Yes both teams have bp, but as the home team it is nice to come in get your work in, drills, conditioning, yadayadayada, without any distractions. The home office is where preparation is most important (especially considering the fact that they get a day off a month in season). If you are getting distracted by constant pressure for autographs, and putting on a hitting display for the fans, and flipping balls into the stands… the place where you should be in the most efficient and ‘Belichickian’ of routines, has the potential to become a side show during pregame.

    • Now having said that^… I would say this shouldn’t have an unbalanced effect on the game, as it would all even out at the end of the season with everyone playing their 81 home games. However I wouldn’t be surprised to see a slight leveling up between the home vs. away result metrix. Now there, it probably would’t be drastic, but consider this… i believe their would then be a trend of teams playing their most discipline game on the road, as pregame is more detail oriented… where it was previously somewhat of a walk through in that second slot with all gameday festivities starting to take place.

  2. Gary Brees says:

    Gammons compares Manfred comments to Fort Sumpter. Apparently Manfred is the confederate general Beauregard and Tony Clark is Union general Anderson. BTW, Anderson surrendered. Manfred has common sense and fan data to bolster his position. Clark has old fashioned union obstinance on his indefensible side. Pick up the pace!

  3. Flávio Savietto says:

    Please, it is São Paulo. And I believe there is a huge market for baseball in Brazil. Yan Gomes started the thrill for our fans and we can watch four games a week on ESPN. The japanese guys are really good players, it’s a shame they are so few.
    MLB do a great job with live games on the internet also.

  4. How bout fewer TV commercials, that would speed thing up.

    Hello?

    Where did everyone go?