Manfred downplays possibility of big leaguers in Olympics
NEW YORK (AP) — Don’t expect to see big league baseball players at the 2020 Olympics, even if the IOC reinstates the sport for the Tokyo Games. And new Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says the sport’s international governing body should demand a long-term pledge from the International Olympic Committee before agreeing to return.
Baseball was an Olympic medal sport from 1992-2008, then was dropped after the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The World Baseball Softball Confederation hopes both events will be reinstated the Tokyo Olympics in five years, and the inclusion of new sports for 2020 will be voted on at the IOC session in Rio de Janeiro on the eve of the 2016 Games.
Manfred is maintaining the stance of his predecessor, Bud Selig, who repeatedly said MLB will not interrupt its schedule for the Olympics.
“The Olympics are a challenge because of the calendar,” Manfred said Thursday during a meeting with the Associated Press Sports Editors. “They are particularly a challenge when the site is halfway around the world and the date falls in the middle of our regular season.”
In 2008, only players not on 25-man big league rosters as of late June were allowed to compete in the Olympics.
“Conceptually, I think it would be good for our game, for baseball generically defined, to be an Olympic sport. I know there is some interest in having a baseball event in the Tokyo Olympics because it’s so popular in that particular country,” Manfred said. “I think it would be a mistake for our sport to make an arrangement with the Olympics whereby we go in for Tokyo and not have some commitment that the Olympics were going to commit to baseball over the longer haul.”
On other topics:
PACE OF GAME
Manfred is pleased with the initiatives to speed the pace of game, such as the clocks timing pitching changes and between-inning breaks, and the requirement for hitters to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box in many instances.
Through Wednesday, the average time of a nine-inning game was 2 hours, 55 minutes, according to STATS, down 6 minutes for the similar period at the start of last season.
“To the extent that there have been violations — that is, they stepped out — players very quickly got back in,” Manfred said. “We’re not interested in the letter of the law so much as we are the mindset of the players in terms of trying to move the game along.”
MLB still is investigating the positive Stanozolol tests in the past month for pitchers Ervin Santana, Jenrry Mejia, Arodys Vizcaino and Andrew McKirahan.
“We noticed certain similarities with the respect to all of these suspensions, the type of substance. We’re looking for other patterns that may be helpful to us,” he said.
Back from a season-long drug suspension, Rodriguez began Thursday two home runs short of tying Willie Mays for fourth place on the career home run list at 600. The New York Yankees may dispute a $6 million milestone payment contemplated in a marketing agreement signed with Rodriguez in December 2007, and the team has not been promoting his home runs commercially.
Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, told TMZ: “I think they’re right because it’s obvious that so many of his home runs were tainted. I think it would be wrong to be celebrating since, for all we know, hundreds of those home runs probably occurred when he was taking steroids.”
Asked about King’s comments, Manfred responded: “You know what’s a great thing about America, is people are free to express their views about topics like this. Good for Peter King.”
Manfred rejected criticism from Kris Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, and said the Cubs had the right to wait until the 13th day of the season to call up the top prospect. By leaving the third baseman in the minor leagues for 12 days, Chicago ensured Bryant cannot be eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season, rather than after 2020.
“As long as we’re going to have service time, and people’s rights are going to change based on service time, people are going to manage to those rules to protect their long-term interest,” Manfred said.
Boras claimed that by keeping Bryant in the minor leagues when the season began, Chicago wasn’t doing all it could to win.
“You have to look at a team’s competitiveness over a certain period of time, and what the Cubs are doing was what they thought maximized their ability to compete over a sustained period of time,” Manfred said. “That has no relationship to a team that goes out and tanks.”
Houston failed to sign top draft pick Brady Aiken last year, expressing concern over his elbow, and the 18-year-old left-hander said last month he had Tommy John surgery.
“Something can be done about this. That something we have proposed to the MLBPA on multiple occasions, and that is that medical information be made available to all clubs prior to the draft, so that they have real information about what’s going on with respect to players,” Manfred said. “Unfortunately, we have not been able to get the MLBPA to accept those proposals. It is puzzling to us to why they prefer a situation of forcing clubs into making major economic and competitive — forget economic — competitive decisions on less than perfect information. It seems to me that draft choices are a limited commodity. It would be in everybody’s interest to have the best possible information out there. ... The fact of the matter is Houston’s concerns turned out to be very well founded.”
Some fans are using Meerkat and Periscope apps on their phones to stream action at ballparks.
“We know it happens, and we haven’t done anything about it,” Manfred said. “We haven’t done it because it’s in very limited chunks of times. If somebody tries to stream a whole game from his phone, there’s probably going to be a problem.”
After the Los Angeles Dodgers launched the regional sports network SportsNet LA ahead of the 2014 season, their games have been available in only about 30 percent of homes in their market.
“I’d like to snap my fingers and have one of our iconic and most popular franchises fully distributed tomorrow,” Manfred said. “That’s what I’d like to do. The reality is this is a negotiation between parties where we do not have a seat at the table.”