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 deal with various issues, his message on the topic has a central theme: consistency.
Speaking with a gaggle of sports editors at M.L.B.’s headquarters in Manhattan on Monday, Manfred discussed the state of the sport, the league’s latest streaming deals, potential rules changes and the advancements of ladies in any respect levels of baseball. However the conversation repeatedly returned to the condition of the baseballs in use within the majors this season and the assorted questions surrounding them.
At issue are two disparate concerns. Some in baseball consider the ball has one way or the other been deadened, muting scoring and offensive statistics across the league. Others have wondered whether there’s a security issue within the wake of M.L.B.’s increasing enforcement of a ban on foreign substances that aid grip, a move that has adversely affected pitchers.
On each fronts, Manfred said perception was out of line with reality.
It’s actually true that offense is down. The general batting average within the majors this season is .232. While that number should improve because the weather warms, it is much below the record low of .237, which was set in 1968, higher referred to as the 12 months of the Pitcher. Scoring is at its lowest level since 1981, and residential runs, which also needs to increase with the temperature, are at their lowest level since 2014.
While it was reported by Business Insider that two distinct baseballs were used during games in 2021, Manfred said that changes were implemented within the ball utilized in major league parks last season and that the league had been upfront in regards to the modifications: He repeatedly cited a report the league had commissioned to check the ball, which found the highest concern was improving consistency.
The 2022 M.L.B. Season
A season that was doubtful is suddenly in full gear.
“The change we made in ’21 was intended to, and did, have the effect of centering the baseball within the range of specifications far more tightly,” Manfred said.
As had been reported, the league, which owns a minority stake in Rawlings, the exclusive manufacturer of the baseballs, experimented with humidors last season, testing them in “outlying” markets by way of atmospheric conditions. Based on those results, humidors were installed in any respect parks for 2022. No other changes were implemented to the baseballs, all of which were made with the identical specifications as 2021, in accordance with the league.
Addressing the security issue expressed by Mets pitcher Chris Bassitt and others, Manfred identified that while the variety of hit basemen was not up overall — though it was for the Mets — league officials continued to hunt a middle ground with the players on gripping the ball. The goal, he said, is finding a approach to make pitchers more comfortable on the mound without returning to products, like Spider Tack, which are viewed by many as performance-enhancers because they permit pitchers to grip the ball higher and spin it faster.
“Now we have two products on the market that we’re testing, with each major league and minor league players, designed to take care of the grip issue,” Manfred said. “It’s two different approaches by way of what’s higher and more functional for players.
“We do want to offer pitchers a ball with higher grip, again more consistent, without providing, let me use the phrase ‘performance enhancement,’ related to the crazy sticky stuff.”
He said baseball might need an approved gripping agent by next season.
As for the league’s other issues, Manfred said, “Our single biggest priority without delay is reach to our fans from a broadcast perspective.” He said the league was addressing that with streaming deals, just like the ones recently agreed to with Peacock and Apple TV+, and by finding ways to complement coverage without further eroding the regional sports network model that has been highly profitable for the league.
He said M.L.B. had made progress in various minor league initiatives to enhance game play, with a pitch clock being the one closest to implementation at the main league level. He also said he believed the advancement of ladies, on and off the sector, was an enormous priority.
When discussing the 99-day lockout that consumed baseball’s off-season, Manfred said his predominant takeaway was that he needed to step up communication, something he’s doing by traveling to fulfill with teams in small groups. And while loads of feelings were hurt through the lockout, he said it led to a very good place.
“At the tip of the day, we got a deal that allowed us to play 162 games,” he said, “and that’s crucial thing.”