TORONTO — Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred supports changing the rule that expands active rosters from 25 to 40 each Sept. 1.
Managers have expressed concern that the rule changes late in the season, allowing multiple pitching changes for right-lefty matchups. The issue is part of negotiations for a labor contract to replace the deal that expires Dec. 2.
“Controversy has arisen because of changes that have taken place in the game and the way the game is played, particularly the use of so many relievers,” Manfred said Tuesday before the AL wild-card game. “I do believe in a reform of those rules, again protecting the benefits that are available to players, I’m not looking to take away service time or anything like that, but I do think it would make sense to get to a situation where we played out September games closer to the rules that we play with the rest of the year.”
“I don’t think 18 pitchers in a game is a good thing,” Manfred added.
Manfred hopes a new labor contract is in place before the start of the offseason business cycle. Teams have until the fifth day after the World Series to make qualifying offers to their former players who became free agents, and free agents can negotiate terms with all teams starting the following day.
On other topics:
While again saying stadium issues in Oakland and Tampa Bay have to be solved before expansion beyond 30 teams would be considered, Manfred acknowledged “in terms of scheduling, 32 teams is a nice number for us,” Manfred said.
Asked about the idea of naming an award in honor of late Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, Manfred said “the shock of the situation has occupied” baseball so far.
“I understand there’s some strong feelings on this topic,” he said. “It’s not the right time of year to be thinking about additional awards. But it’s an issue we’ll talk about during the offseason. Obviously, we recognize the significance of Jose in terms of his importance to the Marlins franchise, and the fact that he was symbolic of the next generation of players.”
Manfred said testing has not revealed any difference in the ball that contributed to an increase in home runs.
“We are absolutely convinced this issue is not driven by a difference in the baseball,” he said. “My own view is the spike is related to the way the game is being played now, the way we are training hitters from a very young age. We have not been able to find any external cause that explains the spike in home runs.”
Because of the World Baseball Classic, no major league team is likely to play at exhibition game in Cuba during spring training.
Manfred supports the one-and-done wild-card playoffs, now in their fifth year.
“We just had a final day of the season where you had all sorts of meaningful baseball games, and most of those meaningful games were related to the fact that we had a second wild card,” he said. “In terms of the games themselves, I understand that baseball doesn’t usually have one-game knockouts, but I do believe these two games get our playoff season off to a really exciting start. I’ve gone to the wild card games, each of them, the last two seasons. The atmospheres in the ballparks are phenomenal, and I think it gives a great jump start to our playoff season.”