LOS ANGELES — Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick is hoping Major League Baseball and the players’ association can work out a deal to improve pace of play without imposing changes on the union unilaterally.
Commissioner Rob Manfred has long vowed to put new rules in place for the upcoming season with or without an agreement, but says his preference is for a deal and he is willing to negotiate the changes involving a pitch clock or limits on mound visits.
“We need to improve the pace of play and as the Commissioner said very well we need to really try to do it as partners with the players because that will make it work better than if Rob made a decision to do it on his own,” Kendrick said Wednesday after the first of two days of owners meetings near Beverly Hills.
MLB has the right to implement the proposal it made last offseason, which includes a 30-second clock between batters and a 20-second clock between pitches that would reset when a pitcher steps off the rubber and when he makes or feints a pickoff throw, according to details obtained by the AP.
Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the 2017 regular season and 3:29 during the postseason. Players have resisted a pitch clock while appearing slightly more amenable to limits on mound visits.
“The absence of a clock is both a blessing and a curse,” Kendrick said. “It’s more the pace of how the game flows and there are times when it doesn’t flow well. It’s our responsibility to the fans to try to help that. There’s a lot of interest within baseball and I think on the players’ side as well.”
Manfred is expected to address the issue when he speaks at the conclusion of the meetings Thursday.
Kendrick met with some of his fellow owners to discuss the effect of the new tax laws on player trades and pending action in the Supreme Court over legalized gambling.
“That’s an area of concern for us,” he said.
Among the other owners in attendance were Fred Wilpon of the Mets, Mark Attanasio of the Brewers, Mark Walter of the Dodgers and Tom Werner of the Red Sox.
The free-agent market has been slower than usual this winter, with 51 players finalizing contracts as of Wednesday.
“Definitely an anomaly,” said Neil Leibman, chairman of the ownership committee for the Texas Rangers. “There’s a lot of teams looking at next year’s free-agent market, which is going to be the largest in a long time.”
Attanasio agreed the market has slowed, but said, “The season isn’t over yet. It’s sort of like the seventh inning.”
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