It turns out the 2019 MLB season will look pretty much the same as the 2018 MLB season.
There were discussions between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association about implementing a universal designated hitter, among other rule changes, as early as this upcoming season.
But Commissioner Rob Manfred said Friday that those rules are too complex to be put into place for 2019, and instead the focus will be on improving pace-of-play this upcoming season.
“I think some of these items need to be part of broader discussions that certainly will continue after Opening Day, and I hope we can focus on some of the issues that need to get resolved quickly in the interim,” Manfred said Friday after the owners meetings in Orlando, Florida, according to MLB.com. “We’ll see how talks go on that.”
After MLB made proposals on several rules changes, the players union responded Feb. 1 with its own proposals, which included using the DH in NL games as well.
The union also proposed an anti-tanking rule that would reward or penalize teams in the draft based on their regular-season records.
Even if no agreement was reached between MLB and the union on rule changes, Manfred has the power to implement the rules — but that won’t be happening this year.
“Those are significant economic issues. They are different in kind than the type of playing-rule changes that we have out there,” Manfred said, according to The Associated Press. “I think that there are pieces of their response on the on-field proposal that were very encouraging. I think what needs to be sorted out is how closely the two agendas are tied, in other words, the on-field stuff and the economic stuff.”
In regards to the rules that could be implemented, Manfred was encouraged that the union responded to MLB’s proposal for a pitch clock and a three-batter minimum for relief pitchers.
The 20-second pitch clock has been used in college baseball and in the minors, but it received pushback from the Players Association when brought to the table last season.
The three-batter minimum rule would help avoid situations where specialists come in from the bullpen to face one or two batters before being replaced by another reliever.
Under this proposed rule, it would apply to both starters and relievers. The only time the rule would not apply is when pitchers come in to finish an inning or if they are injured while on the mound.
“Repeated pitching changes obviously take a lot of time,” Manfred said. “They affect the pace of the game. That’s one rationale. I think the idea of relievers having to go longer is appealing in terms of promoting the role of the starting pitcher, encouraging pitchers to pitch a little longer at the beginning of the game. You talk about player marketing.
“Historically, some of our biggest stars are starting pitchers, and you want to make sure those big stars are out there long enough that they are marketed, recognizable, all those good words.”
Also helping with pace of play is reducing the length and quantity of commercial breaks during games.
Manfred talked with Maury Brown of Forbes and said shortening breaks “continues to be something we’re looking at and could be in place by this season.”
MLB may also get creative with commercials and offer picture-in-picture ads while things like replay reviews are taking place.
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