a Jan. 15, 2015 file photo then Commissioner-elect Rob
Manfred speaks during a news conference at the Major
League Baseball owners meeting in Phoenix. Monday
morning, Jan. 26, 2015, was the first business day
after Manfred succeeded Bud Selig and started a
five-year term as commissioner.
— Rob Manfred knows he'll get pounded now that he's
baseball commissioner — his name is printed in blue script
on the sweet spot between the seams of every big league
good if I get hit hard," he said, smiling and laughing,
during an interview with The Associated Press. "A
little more offense. We don't have to deal with that
desk on the 31st floor of baseball's Park Avenue offices was
tidy on Monday morning, the first business day after he
succeeded Bud Selig and started a five-year term as
commissioner. Having worked for MLB since 1998 as an
executive vice president and then as chief operating
officer, he didn't have to move into a new office.
are piled up, perhaps not physically, but the to-do list is
lengthy: Oakland and Tampa Bay want new ballparks;
negotiations are ongoing with players over pace of play and
domestic violence; Baltimore and Washington are fighting in
court over broadcast revenue; there is widespread agreement
initiatives must be undertaken to develop young fans and
clock must be considered and decreased offense scrutinized
along with increased defensive shifts.
balls? Shorter fences? A lower mound? Banning defensive
they can be talked about in the future.
think it's important for the game to continue to
modernize," he said. "That modernization has to
proceed at a pace that allows us to be very respectful of
the traditions of the game and keeps us from making a hasty
error, as they say."
his regime Sunday by releasing an open letter to fans,
promising development in urban areas and increased emphasis
on partnering with high school, college and amateur ball.
He left his
home early on a snowy Monday and took the commuter train
from Tarrytown to Grand Central Terminal, as he has most
days since he was hired by MLB after 11 years as an outside
counsel with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.
28, 1958, Manfred grew up in Rome, New York, and is thought
to be the first commissioner to have played Little League
Baseball. He started when he was seven and quit when he was
12 or 13 because it conflicted with tennis.
was a painful and not-particularly successful
experience," he said. "I played some shortstop,
some second base."
his first big league game on Aug. 10, 1968, sitting in the
lower deck between home plate and first base at Yankee
Stadium for New York's 3-2 loss to Minnesota. Mickey Mantle
went deep twice in his last multihomer game.
was a big trip for us as a family," Manfred said.
conservative suits and has a gap-toothed smile and a
receding hairline, looking every bit the corporate lawyer he
was. His Cornell undergraduate and Harvard Law School
diplomas are on the wall behind his desk, to the side of his
computer. A flat-screen television on another wall
broadcasts sports news.
contrast between the 56-year-old Manfred and the 80-year-old
Selig is clear. The longtime Brewers owner ruled baseball
from Milwaukee with grandfatherly charm. Selig claims to
have never sent an email during his 22-plus years in charge.
and are actually very different," Manfred said.
"Bud's not much of a technology guy. I am the original
plugged-in technology guy. Bud is an expert at the politics
of managing owners. He does it with an art of persuasion. I
think I can effectively manage the owners as well, but my
style will be more based on information, rational
persuasion, argument, than just politics."
strife remains the biggest danger. Following five strikes
and three lockouts from 1972-95, baseball negotiated three
straight deals without a stoppage and is ensured labor peace
through the 2016 season.
labor disruption would be a real setback for this
game," Manfred said. "I think that we've taught
people to expect that we can solve our problems or issues
with the players in a constructive way without disrupting
the play of the game on the field, and I think a failure to
be able to do that would be a step backwards for us,
ever-increasing speed of high-tech innovation is the No. 2
issue. Regional sports networks and national broadcasting
contracts have helped pushed baseball's revenue to nearly $9
billion last year, a more than fivefold increase under
the cable model has served us well," Manfred explained.
"We hope it lasts a very long time. But it's something
you have to be concerned about."
could be a 20-second pitch clock. While Selig ruled it out
for the big leagues this year, it will be experimented with
at Double-A and Triple-A.
said MLB executive Joe Torre and Atlanta Braves president
John Schuerholz both approved after watching an experiment
in the Arizona Fall League.
fan of the pitch clock," he said. "I think the
best endorsement of it is that some of the people involved
in the game that you would regard to be on the more
traditional spectrum were converts."
wants stricter interpretation of the rule-book strike zone,
a process that began with computer evaluation of umpires'
ball-strike calls starting in 2001.
lack of strike zone uniformity is kind of like
dandelions," Manfred said. "If you don't pay
attention, it comes back."
league batting average dropped to .251 last year, its lowest
level since 1972. Manfred told ESPN in an interview released
Sunday that he was open to banning defensive shifts.
said somewhere down the road it's something I'd be prepared
to have a conversation about. Nothing more," he said
forwarded the players' union a list of radical ideas, Fox
reported Monday, such as tinkering with the ball, mound,
fences and strike zone, and extending the DH to the NL.
Manfred also says he doesn't see a DH change happening, but
the height of the mound could be open to debate. It was cut
from 15 inches to 10 after the 1968 season.
don't see that as a revolutionary idea," he said.
want to push ahead with international play, saying "I'd
like to play on a more sustained basis outside the United
States if that's possible." But games in Asia and
Europe are difficult because of travel.
Western Hemisphere is probably more realistic in that
regard," he said.
baseball is monitoring the U.S. government's opening to
a great source of talent, and whenever you have a talent
source, our people are very interested," he said.
"Obviously the president has announced an important
policy change. What that means at the nuts-and-bolts level
that we operate, we're just not sure yet."
first day at the office, New York prepared for a blizzard.
Not exactly baseball weather.
beamed when discussing his plans. And when talking about the
new baseballs with his name on them.
He sent the
first one that arrived to his father.
really is a very interesting and exciting, tangible evidence
that you are in fact the commissioner of baseball,"
Smith, MLB's senior vice president of licensing, made him
sign "Robert D. Manfred Jr." over and over and
over with different pencils and pens. More than a million
balls will be manufactured this year.
actually can write if I take the time to do it,"
Manfred said proudly. "It turned out OK."