How are things going so far? Depends on who you ask.
While baseball players have come up with several different takes – many have been outspoken and demonstrative, both in their media availability and in their manners on the court – one person is undisturbed by the fallout and is as determined now as ‘she was last week. .
It is the man who takes care of everything.
In an interview with The Athletic this week, in fact, the commissioner said he was satisfied with the first returns … or their absence.
“I think the first two days went very well,” he told the website on Wednesday. “We had no ejection [for foreign substances], the players in general were extremely cooperative, inspections were carried out quickly and between rounds. Frankly, the data suggests we are making progress on the issues [in spin rate] that prompted us to undertake the effort in the first place. “
At the same time, Manfred – aware of the reaction from both leagues – realizes that there is work to be done.
Philadelphia Phillies manager Joe Girardi on Tuesday asked referees to check Washington Nationals starter Max Scherzer for sticky substances. The Phillies suspected Scherzer – who often touched his sweaty hair, as he traditionally does – of doing something that could be examined.
“It was suspicious to me,” Girardi said.
Which was embarrassing for Scherzer. By the third check, in fact, he had had enough, throwing his glove and hat on the floor, unbuckling his belt and repeating “I have nothing” over and over.
“I understand the Philadelphia incident was far from ideal, but it was an incident,” Manfred said. “And we expect that we will continue, like the vast majority of cases so far, without these kinds of incidents. “
While the players, Scherzer among them, have turned their media availability into rants about protocol, Manfred maintains his position and is unwavering in the fact that the communication from the Commissioner’s office has been effective and efficient.
“We have been very transparent since the start of the year that this was a problem for us and that things needed to change,” he said. “That’s why we collect information. We were clear in the March note we sent if things didn’t change there would be discipline. … Around the owners’ meetings there was a ton of publicity that things hadn’t changed, in fact they had gotten worse.
“I just don’t see any secrets as to where this is going and I know for a fact that there were many opportunities to contribute in the process. “
New York Yankees reliever Zack Britton, along with Scherzer – both members of the players association’s executive subcommittee – on Wednesday called on Major League Baseball to end field checks by referees and replace them with monitors who would carry out inspections in the pavilions. , canoes and enclosures for lifters.
“If I’m a young boy at the game and I ask my dad, ‘Well, what’s going on? What is he going to say? “Well, they think everyone’s cheating,” Britton said before the Yankees hosted the Kansas City Royals. “I mean, is that what we want the game to be, like we’re assuming you’re cheating?” I just think it’s a bad look. “
He’s not the only one thinking, as people around the game are looking at the long term. Kansas City manager Mike Matheny has warned his opponents that if they act like Girardi and ask the referees to check the Royals pitchers for sticky substances, it will provoke his team.
Manfred is aware of all of this and remains open to further communications. Pressed on long-term plans, he was confident but cautious on Wednesday.
“I don’t like to put my feet in the sand. We have been two days, ”he said. “I just don’t have enough information to tell you that this is foolproof or that it will change. “
Perhaps part of that thinking process could change as more and more players speak out.
“I just think the optics are absolutely embarrassing for our game, and that’s not what I want to wake up and read about our game in the morning,” said Britton. “… There is a better way to do it. But it takes more than me or other players saying it. You have to talk with MLB and sit down and prepare something so that we can enforce the rules, but not the way it’s running. “
Of course, it is possible – especially with the presence of social media in baseball – that some episodes on the field will tarnish the image of the game. This should be a concern both in clubs and in the Commissioner’s office.
Oakland reliever Sergio Romo was checked by the referees on Tuesday after pitching the seventh inning. The veteran right-hander threw his belt on the turf and dropped his pants, raising questions about whether broadcast partners should limit control coverage.
“In developing the plan, we tried to come up with a plan that was… as low-key as possible given the practicalities of the game and the need to move the game forward,” said Manfred. “We thought that the checks between the rounds were a good way to defuse them, [but] maybe this is the right word [to use]. I don’t think we can practically tell broadcast partners not to cover something that’s on the ground. “
Some pitchers – Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, for example – have been outspoken in Manfred’s visibility throughout it all. Cole, after a start last week, begged MLB to speak to him and the pitchers in the game who need to grab the ball and find ways to keep up with the system.
The media also play a role. Will Manfred be open and available to discuss these issues as the system progresses?
Manfred is aware of the requests. And he wants all of baseball to know he’s not going to hide.
“Every year since I have been commissioner, with the exception of last year, I have at least two vacancies per year,” he said. “I expect this year to go back to my usual routine.
“I did not hesitate to talk about this subject. When people call, I take the call. “
The Associated Press contributed to this report.