NEW YORK (WFAN) — Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred is not exactly a fan of the growing number of defensive shifts in his sport, but he’s reluctant to push for any drastic changes to address it.
Speaking to WFAN’s Mike Francesa on Jan. 18, 2017, Manfred acknowledged “there has been an explosion in terms of the amount of shifting that’s going on,” referring to the practice of overloading one side of the field against pull hitters.
“It does affect certain types of players disproportionately, and it also exacerbates some trends in the game that may not be great from an entertainment perspective,” the commissioner said. ” … When you shift on certain types of players, it increases the likelihood that they’re either going to strike out or try to hit it out of the ballpark. That’s the reality.”
But Manfred said enacting any rules changes that would affect the “competitive complexion of the game” would be very difficult, adding that discussions about eliminating pitches for intentional walks or removing warm-up pitches on the field for relievers are more palatable to him.
“You get into a thing where you start telling people the way they defend is going to be limited, now you’re having a competitive affect,” he said. “That’s a much more serious undertaking.”
Manfred said he hopes hitters will eventually adjust to the shifts.
The commissioner also said he had believed the players association would agree to a plan in the new labor deal to cut the number of September roster spots from 40 to 28 in exchange for expanding the roster from 25 to 26 the rest of the season.
“We thought we had that deal,” Manfred said. “As a matter of fact … when I briefed the owners in November, one of the things I told them I thought was done was that very deal. It unwound, I think because of issues among the player group. I think it is an issue that we will continue to revisit.
“Playing the game differently in September is a problem,” he explained. “Forget whether I do, people in the game agree with that. Playing it differently when it matters the most seems like a bad idea.”
Manfred, who has been working to improve the pace of play in the sport, also said he doesn’t like how many pitching changes he sees in September as a result of the larger rosters.
Hours before the baseball Hall of Fame was set to announce this year’s class, Francesa asked Manfred if it would bother him if superstars from the steroids era — Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens and others — were never enshrined in Cooperstown. The commissioner said his bigger concern is writers who block players based on “imperfect information.”
“(If) after we had rules, had real honest-to-God testing that was supposed to be public, and Rob Manfred’s a positive test, I think a writer is 100 percent entitled to make his own judgment as to whether that should let him in,” Manfred said. “He could go either way. What I object to is the innuendo piece — ‘Rob Manfred looked a certain way.'”
To listen to the full interview, click on the audio player above.
For more Best of Mike Francesa, click here.