MLB streaming bundle, rule changes and other key takeaways from Rob Manfred’s press conference

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NEW YORK — Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday afternoon he was “encouraged by the results” of the pitch clock in the minor leagues, but he did not go so far as to say he intends to bring about that change, or a shift limitation, in the big leagues in 2023.

A competition committee was created with the new collective agreement, made up of representatives of the commissioner and the players’ union. Manfred eventually has more appointments, and therefore, in theory, the league can implement desired rule changes between seasons. Manfred on Thursday offered respectful comments on the committee’s process, including whether the watch would be introduced at all and how long it would be allowed.

“I don’t want to anticipate the result,” said Manfred.

The first meeting of the competition committee is scheduled for next week.

One issue Manfred said is unlikely to go before the competition committee this year is the automated strike zone. So unless that changes, it’s not a change being considered for 2023.

MLB is testing a modified underage challenge system this year that allows teams to address the automated ball hitting system if they disagree with the umpire’s call on home plate.

“We continue to experiment in the lower leagues,” said Manfred. “Big kind of development in the challenge system alternative. The idea of ​​using two different formats is a big change this year. I went down and saw the challenge system, I have to say I saw three challenges in minor league play, the first one was so damn fast I missed it. ‘What happened?’

“I mean, it was literally four seconds. I like that. I mean four seconds is a pretty good rep change. So you know we have to keep working on it. There are difficult issues around the strike zone that affect the results on the pitch. And we need to make sure we understand them before we jump off that bridge.”

MLB keeps pushing for its own streaming bundle

The first topic Manfred addressed in his opening remarks related to a key part of the business: media distribution.

“Local media has been a big talking point, it’s not a sales issue for us at the moment,” Manfred said. “Our local media revenues continue to be strong. We’re worried about our reach. We believe we have fans who want to see baseball but feel they don’t have a sufficient opportunity to do so. There is a strong sense among owners that a company that we refer to as “MLB Media” should specifically step into the digital space to offer fans greater and more flexible ways to watch games. We believe Major League Baseball is in a unique position to be successful in this endeavor.

“Unlike other companies, we have access to all digital rights and let’s not forget that we have the technology to stream 2,430 games since we’ve been doing it since 2000. … It’s about giving fans what’s possible, outside of the traditional cable bundle, with ample opportunity to watch our games.”

While MLB already offers a bundle of games through MLB.tv for viewers who live outside of a particular team’s market, those games are locked within a particular team’s market. (So ​​if you live in New York City, you can’t watch the Mets or Yankees through MLB.tv.)

A’s, Ray’s Stadium situations

As he usually does after owners’ meetings, Manfred responded to questions about the situation at the Oakland and Tampa Bay stadiums.

About Oakland: “There is really significant activity in Oakland. The political process has advanced significantly. I met Mayor (Libby) Schaaf last week. She’s done a really good job moving the Oakland process forward. But as you all know, the California political process is its own breed of animal. There’s work to be done on the Oakland side. I think the A’s sensibly continued to pursue the Las Vegas alternative. We like Las Vegas as a market. Again, it’s in the same category as Tampa Bay. We need a solution for both markets and the time for that solution has come.”

On Tampa Bay: “I think there is an urgency about Tampa. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. There has to be a solution in the Tampa Bay area for the Rays. Obviously the end of this lease is a tough deadline. You must take into account that building stadiums takes a little time. We’re getting to the point that anywhere in the area that’s interested in 162 baseball games, they have to come, they have to get together with the club. I know the Rays are keen to get something done and see if a deal can be struck.”

Manfred said he is “focused on the Tampa Bay market at the moment” as opposed to moving.

minors

There has been a flurry of minor league-related activity in recent months. The terms of a settlement in a long-running lawsuit brought by minor leagues are expected to be announced in July. Meanwhile, a rights group, Advocates for Minor Leaguers, has been in talks with the Mets.

“Minor leagues like all of our staff, we’re constantly in a position, whether they’re staff here or major league players here, we’re constantly in a position where we’re getting input from people and trying to be responsive and to create the best possible workplace,” said Manfred.

Advocates for Minor Leaguers Executive Director Harry Marino replied: “We appreciate that the Commissioner recognizes that minor league players are employees and that work still needs to be done to improve working conditions in the minor leagues. What the commissioner hasn’t acknowledged — at least publicly — is that the treatment of minor league players continues to be a black eye for baseball. This will remain so until minor league players can negotiate their terms of employment with MLB, as major league players have for years.”

MLB also has a new housing policy for minor leagues this year, which Manfred described as “a step forward,” though its implementation has caused some problems.

“As with any new policy, there are places where it has been difficult due to housing shortages and the availability of the type of housing you want,” Manfred said. “We’ll get better at that over time.”

(Photo by Rob Manfred: Associated Press / Wilfredo Lee)

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