Rob Manfred Is Nostalgic About All-Star Game


DENVER — Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred rarely talks romantically about his sport. But on Tuesday, just hours before the All-Star Game, after a lonely summer of 2020, Manfred gave in to nostalgia. Fifty years ago, at a friend’s house on Lake Brantingham, north of New York, an All-Star Game fascinated him.

“I vividly remember the great room we were sitting in and Reggie Jackson rushing home,” Manfred said at a lunch with the writers. “I was 12 at the time, and I don’t think I could remember another place where I was on a particular day when I was 12. I think missing last year’s game made me focus on how great the All-Star Game could really be.”

Unfortunately, even the fuzzy return of the midsummer classic hasn’t escaped controversy after last year’s event was canceled by the pandemic. Manfred in April moved the game out of Atlanta In response to Georgia’s restrictive new electoral rules. The sport’s showcase event shifted here to Coors Field, where the American League won 5-2. Manfred almost sighed when asked if he would reconsider league events in Texas, where lawmakers in Texas are pressing for their own review of election rules.

“The decision about Atlanta was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever been asked to do,” Manfred said. “Hopefully that’s the hardest thing asked of me, period. Having said that, I’m not going to speculate on who is going to pass what law and where we’re going to get the jewelery stuff. It’s hard enough to deal with that in concrete, real time.”

Manfred and Tony Clark, general managers of the cast, have more pressing matters on their agenda. The sport’s collective bargaining agreement expires on December 1, and while Manfred marks his own track record – no job cuts in his 23 full-time years with Major League Baseball – the parties are approaching a critical crossroads.

Players have been skeptical of their owners’ competitive intentions in recent years, which is reflected in their lukewarm free agent offers. Owners are concerned about the entertainment value of a game with more hits and less action on the court and bases. Players have been hesitant to accept the sweeping rule changes, and Manfred has stopped unilaterally promoting some of the ideas he supports.

“Every conversation about changing the game implies, on some level, that something is wrong,” Clark said. “The question for me is: What has changed, why has it changed? Once you answer this question, you can talk about what might need to be adjusted from there. Gamers are willing to talk about adjustments. Players are also concerned about maintaining the integrity of the game as always.”

Manfred’s office is actively looking for ways to encourage the attack. imposing a few rule changes on minors. On Tuesday, he said he was in favor of eliminating in-field shifts (now banned in Class AA) that convert more fielders into exits and encourage batters to swing for fences.

Manfred said the talks offered a chance to reimagine the sport and “bring back its playing closer to what most of us have historically enjoyed.” The game evolves. What we’re playing today won’t look much like 1971. The question is: Which version would you like to switch to?”

He said that the latest innovations brought by the pandemic are unlikely to last. In the last two seasons, extra-hit matches have started with a runner at second base, and double-head matches have only lasted seven innings each. He said both were “much less likely to be part of our lasting landscape” – but stopped short of requiring teams to at least offer coupons or discounts to fans who purchase tickets for nine-stage matches, which have been replaced as gestures of goodwill. seven hits.

“These are the things that sound easy,” Manfred said. “It is much harder to execute in real life.”

MLB initially wanted to delay the start of the season until early May, but union rejected the ideaProven to be smart. But even now, only 23 out of 30 teams 85 percent vaccination threshold Necessary to loosen coronavirus restrictions. Before Sunday’s game in Boston, four Philadelphia Phillies players were placed on the Covid-19 casualty list.

Clark, who is vaccinated, said the union does not force its members to get vaccinated, but tries to emphasize the importance of doing so.

“The vaccine is important; it gave us an opportunity to keep the wheels on the road,” Clark said. “The more vaccines we get, the better we will be. Our players have heard us say that, too. But the idea that there are still games to be tuned – and we’re contact tracing even as we stand here – is an everyday thought. ”

Last winter, Manfred cited uncertainty over the pandemic as reason for putting expansion plans on the table. On Tuesday, though, he strongly suggested that a franchise might move soon.

Three years ago, Manfred said that no other market has had the edge over Oakland, where Athletics have played since 1968, and that the league would regret it if the team moved. But Athletics has resented the idea of ​​building a new park on the land around their existing stadium, as Cincinnati, New York, Philadelphia, and others have done, and a proposed location at Howard Terminal is facing a critical vote by the Oakland City Council next week. .

“The Oakland process is over,” Manfred said, later adding: “Las Vegas is a viable alternative to a major league club, and there are other viable alternatives at this point that I haven’t released A’s to explore. So thinking of it as a bluff. It’s a mistake. That’s Oakland’s decision point on whether they want to own Major League Baseball.”

Manfred might want to return the sport to the way it was in 1971, but he couldn’t quite do it in the case of A’s move. The team Jackson was playing when he hit the famous All-Star homer? Oakland Athletics.


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