baseball

Rob Manfred and MLB Seek Consistency on Baseballs

Commissioner Rob Manfred is well aware that his league’s baseballs are under scrutiny by players, fans, and others, and while Major League Baseball is working to address various issues, their message on the issue is central: consistency.

Speaking to a group of sports editors at MLB’s headquarters in Manhattan on Monday, Manfred discussed the state of the game, the league’s new streaming deals, potential rules changes, and women’s progress at all levels of baseball. But the conversation has repeatedly returned to the status of baseballs used in the majors this season and the various questions surrounding them.

There are two different concerns at issue. Some in baseball believe the ball is somehow dead, muting the scoring and offensive statistics across the league. Others are wondering whether there is a safety issue in the wake of the MLB’s ban on foreign substances that can help hold it, which has adversely affected pitchers.

Manfred said that on both fronts, perception is not in accordance with reality.

It is certainly true that crime is low. His batting average is .232 in the majors this season. While that number should improve as the weather warms up, this is a record low of .237, set in 1968, known as the pitcher’s year. Scoring has been at its lowest level since 1981 and home runs have been at its lowest level since 2014.

Manfred said the ball was used in major league parks for 2021 and that the league was at the forefront of the changes: He repeatedly cited a report commissioned by the league to study the ball, which found that top concern was gaining more stability. From the ball.

“The change we made in ’21 has the effect of making baseball more focused on specifications,” Manfred said.

Reportedly, the league, which owns a minority stake in Rawlings, a specialist manufacturer of baseballs, experimented with humidifiers last season, testing them in “outside” markets for atmospheric conditions. Based on those results, humidifiers are installed in all parks for 2022.

Addressing a safety issue voiced by Mets pitcher Chris Bassett and others, Manfred noted that the number of hit basemen – which the Mets have not – continues to find the middle ground with players catching the ball. . He said the goal was to find a way to make pitchers more comfortable on the mound without returning to products like SpiderTalk, which many view as performance-enhancers because they allow pitchers to catch the ball better and rotate faster.

“We have two products. We are designed to deal with the grip issue with major league and minor league players,” Manfred said. “These are two different approaches in terms of what’s better and more functional for players.

“We want to give the ball to the pitchers with good grip. Again, more consistently, without providing, I use the phrase ‘performance enhancement’ associated with crazy sticky stuff.”

He said baseball may have an approved gripping agent by next season.

As for the league’s other issues, Manfred said, “Reaching our fans from a broadcast standpoint is our single biggest priority right now.” With streaming deals recently agreed with Peacock and Apple TV +, the league is finding ways to complement its coverage of the regional sports network model, which is more profitable for the league, he said.

He said MLB has made progress on various minor league initiatives to improve game play, a pitch clock that is close to implementation at the major league level. She believed that women’s advancement on and off the field was a high priority.

As for the 99-day lockout that ate up baseball’s off-season, Manfred said his main takeaway was that he needed to increase communication, which he does by traveling to meet teams in small groups. And while a lot of emotions were hurt during the lockout, it ended up being a good one, he said.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got a contract that allows us to play 162 games, and that’s the most important thing,” he said.

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