Rob Manfred and MLB Seek Consistency on Baseballs

Commissioner Rob Manfred is well aware that his league’s baseballs are under scrutiny from players, fans and others, and while Major League Baseball is working to address various issues, his message has a central theme: consistency.

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

At issue are two disparate concerns. Some in baseball believes the ball has somehow been deadened, muting scoring and offensive statistics across the league. Others have wondered if there is a safety issue in the wake of MLB’s growing enforcement of foreign substances that aid grips, a move that has adversely affected pitchers.

On both fronts, Manfred said the perception was out of line with reality.

It is certainly true that the offense is down. The overall batting average in the majors this season is .232. While that number should improve as the weather warms, it is far below the record low of .237, which was set in 1968, better known as the Pitcher of the Year. Scoring is at its lowest level since 1981, and home runs are at their lowest level since 2014.

Manfred said changes were implemented in the ball used in major league parks for 2021 and that the league had been upfront about the modifications: He repeatedly cited a report commissioned to study the ball, which found top concerns were becoming more consistent. from the ball.

“The change we made in ’21 was intended to, and did, have the effect of focusing on the baseball’s range of specifications much more tightly,” Manfred said.

As has been reported, the league, which owns a minority stake in Rawlings, the exclusive manufacturer of baseballs, experimented with humidors last season, testing them in “outlying” markets in terms of atmospheric conditions. Based on those results, humidors were installed at all parks for 2022.

Addressing the safety issue expressed by Mets pitcher Chris Bassitt and others, Manfred points out that while the number of hit basemen was not up overall – though it was for the Mets – league officials continue to seek a middle ground with players gripping the ball. General Chat Chat Lounge The goal, he said, is to find a way to make pitchers more comfortable on the mound without returning to products, such as Spider Tack, that are seen by many as performance-enhancers because they allow pitchers to grip the ball better and spin it faster.

“We have two products out there that we’re testing, with both major league and minor league players, designed to deal with the grip issue,” Manfred said. “It’s two different approaches in terms of what’s better and more functional for players.

“We want to give pitchers a ball with a better grip, again more consistent, without providing, let me use the phrase ‘performance enhancement,’ associated with the crazy sticky stuff.”

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

As for the league’s other issues, Manfred said “our single biggest priority right now is to reach out to our fans from a broadcast perspective.” He said the league was addressing streaming deals, such as those recently agreed with Peacock and Apple TV +, and finding ways to supplement without further eroding the regional sports network model that has been highly profitable for the league.

He said MLB had made progress in various minor league programs to improve game play, with a pitch clock being one of the closest to implementation at the major league level. He also said he believed the advancement of women, on and off the field, was a huge priority.

As for the 99-day lockout that consumed baseball’s off-season, Manfred said his main takeaway was that he needed to step up communication, something he was doing by traveling to meet with teams in small groups. And while plenty of feelings were hurt during the lockout, he said it ended up in a good place.

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

Leave a Comment