Posts Tagged ‘Rob Manfred’

Major League Baseball told a Senate committee on Friday the sport’s antitrust exemption prevents teams from moving without approval and allows the sport to maintain the minor leagues at a wide level.

In addition, baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said many terms of minor leaguers’ employment are determined by the Major League Baseball Players Association’s collective bargaining agreement with MLB.

Leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked Manfred on July 18 to explain the impact of potential legislation stripping the sport’s antitrust exemption from the sport’s relationship with minor league players. Manfred said the letter “suggests that Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption is detrimental to minor league players and that removing the exemption would improve their working conditions.”

“The opposite is true,” Manfred wrote in a 17-page response. “The baseball antitrust exemption has meaningfully improved the lives of minor league players, including their terms and conditions of employment, and has enabled the operators of minor league affiliates to offer professional baseball in certain communities that otherwise could not economically support a professional baseball team.”

Manfred said the exemption was responsible for MLB franchise location stability. Only one MLB team has changed cities since 1972, the Montreal Expos leaving Canada to become the Washington Nationals for the 2005 season.

“In that same period, 14 NBA, 10 NFL and nine NHL franchises have relocated,” he said. “MLB differs from other professional sports leagues because MLB’s antitrust exemption allows it to enforce a rigorous process that ensures club relocation is carefully considered and vetted.”

Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who chairs the Judiciary Committee, and Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who is the ranking minority member, asked for the responses along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

Manfred said MLB supports 184 teams in 43 states, including minor league affiliates and partner leagues launched when guaranteed farm teams were cut from 160 to 120 after the 2019 season. The figure does not include teams at training complexes in Florida, Arizona and the Dominican Republic.

“Without the exemption, there would be baseball in far fewer communities, and without MLB’s substantial subsidization, the cost of attending a minor league baseball game would be significantly higher in many places,” he wrote.

MLB said it spends an average of $108,000 annually on each minor leaguer in pay and benefits and 58% of drafted minor leaguers — approximately 615 each year under the current format — receive an initial signing bonus of at least $100,000.

“Those players who do not command larger signing bonuses generally will have very short baseball careers and transition to other careers in their early 20s and are truly seasonal employees who are free to obtain other employment or continue their education during the offseason,” Manfred wrote.

He said that while Advocates for Minor Leaguers claim pay and benefits would improve in a free market, “on the contrary, under such a system, the top prospects … may do better. But the much larger number of non-prospect players likely would do worse.”

Baseball’s exemption was created by the Supreme Court in the 1922 decision Federal Baseball Club v. National League and was limited by the Curt Flood Act of 1998, which applied antitrust laws to MLB affecting the employment of major league players at the major league level.

In addition, the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 gave leagues permission to collectively sell broadcast rights and the Supreme Court in the 1996 case Brown v. Pro Football said there is a non-statutory exemption from antitrust law for activity governed by a collective bargaining relationship.

“The revenues of most minor league clubs are insufficient to support even the current salaries and benefits of players,” Manfred wrote. “If MLB clubs eliminated or curtailed their financial subsidy to minor league clubs and players were compensated at the minor league level by the club operators at a level commensurate with minor League revenues, minor league player salaries and benefits would be lower, not higher.”

Senators asked about the potential impact of repealing 2018 legislation exempting minor league players from federal minimum wage and overtime laws — the Save America’s Pastime Act.

MLB agreed in papers filed this month in federal court to pay minor leaguers $185 million to settle a lawsuit alleging violations of minimum wage laws. Minimum salaries for players with minor league contracts are $400 weekly at rookie ball, $500 at Class A, $600 at Double-A and $700 at Triple-A.

Top prospects receive substantial signing bonuses. Shortstop Jackson Holliday, the top pick in this year’s draft, agreed to a $8.19 million bonus with Baltimore. First-round picks last year received $1.8 million and up and each of the 73 players who signed among the top 75 selections received at least $747,500.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred believes minor leaguers earn enough money playing baseball to maintain a normal standard of living.

“I kind of reject the premise of the question, that minor-league players are not paid a living wage,” Manfred told the media Tuesday in Los Angeles prior to the MLB All-Star Game, according to Evan Drellich of The Athletic.

Manfred’s comment didn’t sit well with Harry Marino, the director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers.

“Most minor-league baseball players work second jobs because their annual salaries are insufficient to make ends meet,” Marino said in a statement. “The commissioner makes an annual salary of $17.5 million. His suggestion that minor-league pay is acceptable is both callous and false.”

The average annual salary for MiLB players is $4,800 at the rookie-ball levels to about $14,000 in Triple-A.

Manfred’s remark also comes on the heels of a $185-million lawsuit settlement, which will see MLB pay minor leaguers due to teams’ minimum wage and overtime violations.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said the Oakland Athletics need to quickly reach a binding agreement for a new ballpark and that relocation could be considered if a deal isn’t struck for a facility in the Bay Area.

“I was at the Coliseum myself recently,” he told the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Tuesday before the All-Star Game. “The condition of the Coliseum is a really serious problem for us. I’ve said it, this is not news. It is not a major league-quality facility at this point.”

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf is pushing for approval of a waterfront ballpark at Howard Terminal. The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission voted last month to reclassify a 56-acre terminal at the Port of Oakland as a mixed-use area where a new ballpark could be built. The team, under controlling owner John Fisher, also has explored a possible new ballpark in Las Vegas.

An Oakland City Council vote on a ballpark is possible later this year.

“Mayor Schaaf continues to work hard to try to get an arrangement, an agreement to develop the Howard Terminal site,” Manfred said. “I’m hopeful that that can still happen. And I said this recently and I’ll repeat, it needs to happen now. It needs to be done.”

The A’s have played at the Coliseum since 1968 and their lease expires after the 2024 season.

After proposing and withdrawing plans for ballparks in Fremont and San Jose, the team announced in November 2018 it had found a waterfront location for a new ballpark at Howard Terminal, close to the Jack London Square neighborhood. The stadium would cost more than $1 billion, with views toward San Francisco, the Bay Bridge and Port of Oakland.

After trading veterans and cutting payroll to a major league-low of $48 million on opening day, the A’s are an AL-worst 32-61 and have drawn a big league-worst 362,756 in home attendance, an average of 8,637.

“I think Oakland, the A’s, face an extraordinarily difficult situation. John Fisher has invested literally tens of millions of dollars over the entire period of my commissionership in an effort to get a stadium done in Oakland,” Manfred said. “I think that negativity always accompanies the situation where players are traded and a club for whatever set of reasons decides to start over. But I think bigger picture, John is committed and has invested really significant dollars in trying to get baseball in Oakland on an even footing, a sustainable footing over the long haul.”

A’s President Dave Kaval said last month he has made weekly trips to Las Vegas, investing time on design work and feasibility studies. Manfred declined to discuss whether MLB would waive charging the team a relocation fee — MLB has not charged relocation fees in the past.

“Mr. Fisher has to make a decision as to whether he wants to make an agreement or can make an agreement that is approved by the City Council that would keep the A’s in Oakland,” Manfred said. “If that’s not possible, we have a process that deals with an application for relocation, and I assume that’s where it goes if in fact no agreement can be made in Oakland.”

Baseball owners have put off possible expansion from 30 teams to 32 until Oakland and Tampa Bay get deals for new ballparks.

“I need to get Oakland and Tampa resolved before we could realistically have a conversation about expansion,” Manfred said.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics need to reach new ballpark deals soon and left open the possibility of considering relocation if agreements are not struck.

“There is urgency with respect to Tampa,” Manfred said Thursday during a news conference following an owners meeting. “There needs to be a resolution in the Tampa Bay region for the Rays.”

Tampa Bay’s lease at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, where the team has played since its inaugural season in 1998, expires after the 2027 season. The Rays said in January that MLB had rejected the team’s plan to split its season between Florida and Montreal.

“Obviously, the end of that lease is a hard deadline, but you need to take into account that stadiums take a little bit of time to build, right?” Manfred said. “So we are getting to the point where wherever it is in the region that has an interest in having 162 baseball games, they need to get to it, get with the club — I know the Rays are anxious to get something done — and see if a deal can be made.”

Asked whether he was considering relocation, Manfred responded: “Right now, I’m focused on Tampa,” putting emphasis on “right now” and later adding he was referring to the region, not the specific side of the bay. “I think a great man once said, all good things must end at some point. And but right now we’re focused on Tampa.”

The Athletics have played at the Coliseum since 1968 and their lease expires after the 2024 season. The A’s have proposed a new ballpark at Howard Terminal and are working with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf to gain the necessary approvals.

“There is really significant activity in Oakland. The political process has moved along significantly,” Manfred said. “I met with Mayor Schaaf last week. She has done a really good job at moving the process forward in Oakland. But as you all know, California political processes are their own sort of animal. There’s work to do on the Oakland side. I think the A’s prudently have continued to pursue the Las Vegas alternative. We like Las Vegas as a market. Again, it’s in the same category as Tampa. We need a solution in both those markets and the time has come for that solution.”

Oakland has averaged a major league-low of 8,283 fans this season and the Rays are 25th at 13,740, also ahead of Miami, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says the fate of the Athletics in Oakland will be determined in the next few months.

A’s owners have proposed a new ballpark in the Howard Terminal area of Oakland, and Manfred said if the stadium project is not approved, the team would move forward with either a move to Las Vegas or a wider relocation search.

“The Oakland process is at an end,” Manfred told the Baseball Writers’ Association of America before Tuesday night’s All-Star Game.

The Oakland City Council is to consider a non-binding terms sheet on July 20.

“This is the decision point for Oakland as whether they want to have Major League Baseball going forward,” he said.

Through two days of Major League Baseball’s crackdown on pitchers using foreign substances for grip, commissioner Rob Manfred is encouraged.

“My view is the first two days have gone very well,” Manfred told Brittany Ghiroli of The Athletic. “We’ve had no ejections, players, in general, have been extremely cooperative, the inspections have taken place quickly and between innings.”

But things got tense between the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday night when umpires checked three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer three times for sticky substances – once at the request of Phillies skipper Joe Girardi, who was later ejected for yelling at the Nationals dugout and. Though Manfred acknowledged the situation was “less than ideal,” he also noted it was “one incident.”

Scherzer blasted the commissioner following the game, calling the inspections “Manfred rules” and stating the new policy “is not the answer.”

Asked about Scherzer’s comments, Manfred called them “blatantly incorrect” and noted players and the Major League Baseball Players Association provided input before the league enacted the changes.

Oakland Athletics reliever Sergio Romo also appeared upset at his routine inspection, undoing his belt and dropping his pants during Tuesday’s game against the Texas Rangers.

Umpires began checking pitchers for foreign substances between innings Monday as MLB looks to curb the use of grip-enhancers that has seemingly depressed batting averages and other offensive stats. League rules have prohibited pitchers from using substances for decades, but MLB has not fully enforced those rules until now.

Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer was the first pitcher to appear bothered by MLB’s new policy to check hurlers for foreign substances midgame, and he certainly sounded upset following Tuesday’s contest.

“What we’re doing right now, this is not the answer,” Scherzer said after Washington’s 3-2 victory against the Philadelphia Phillies, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

Umpires checked the three-time Cy Young winner three times for sticky substances during Tuesday’s game. One of the searches followed a request by Phillies manager Joe Girardi, who was later ejected for yelling at the Nationals dugout.

But Scherzer laid the blame at the feet of commissioner Rob Manfred.

“These are Manfred rules. Go ask him what he wants to do with this,” Scherzer said, according to Britt Ghiroli of The Athletic. “I’ve said enough. Go ask Alec Bohm how he feels about 95 (mph) at his face. I don’t need to say any more about this.”

Before one substance check, Scherzer lost control of a fastball that buzzed Bohm up and in. The seven-time All-Star admitted postgame he “had zero feel of the baseball” and needed to use sweat, according to Jayson Stark of The Athletic.

“It’s going to be dangerous if you’re in a cold game and you have no sweat,” Scherzer added, according to Stark. “What are we going to do then?”

Scherzer, 36, earned the win despite the interruptions, allowing one run on two hits and three walks while striking out eight over five innings.

MLB’s pitcher checks officially began this week as the league looks to eliminate the use of sticky substances that have helped precipitate all-time highs in pitch spin rates and all-time lows in batting averages. Foreign substances that help pitchers maintain their grip on the baseball have been illegal for decades, but the rules have gone largely unenforced.

Major League Baseball took huge financial losses in order for the 2020 season to take place.

The league lost $3.1 billion during the pandemic-shortened campaign, according to a MLB official who spoke with The Athletic’s Evan Drellich.

MLB totaled $3 billion in revenue in 2020 but spent $6.1 billion, a league official told Drellich, compared to 2019’s earnings which came to $10.7 billion. The 30 teams combined to lose $8.3 billion overall, commissioner Rob Manfred told Sportico’s Barry M. Bloom on Monday.

“We are going to be at historic high levels of debt,” Manfred said, per Bloom. “And it’s going to be difficult for the industry to weather another year where we don’t have fans in the ballpark and have other limitations on how much we can’t play and how we can play.”

With profits plummeting without fan attendance – although there were a few exceptions for the National League Championship Series and World Series – and no idea of what the future may hold for baseball, the financial losses have forced teams to cut hundreds of employees around the league.

The Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs, and San Francisco Giants have already laid off several people, and the Oakland Athletics appear ready to do the same.

“It is one of the tragedies in baseball this year,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said on Oct. 5 after his organization laid off more than 100 staff members.

“Some wonderful men and women who’ve given a lot to this game have lost jobs and no longer have the support and the camaraderie and the foundation of baseball to lean on, and that’s something that wears on all of us. Every organization is changed because of it. The very nature of working in baseball is changed because of it.”

MLB’s reported losses come several months after the league and the MLBPA debated over how long the regular season would be and how much players would earn in prorated salary.

Manfred also praised the union for its cooperation during the pandemic to help the campaign proceed.

“The players worked hard and really sacrificed. The club people have been great,” the commissioner said.

“The (players’) union has really helped. When you get that kind of cooperation you really have to feel good about it.”

SAN DIEGO, CA – OCTOBER 17: Members of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrate with the 2020 American League Champions trophy after they win Game 7 of the ALCS 4-2 against the Houston Astros at Petco Park on Saturday, October 17, 2020 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Rays perennially rank among the bottom in Major League Baseball fan attendance, but commissioner Rob Manfred thinks the spotlight of the World Series could change that.

“My hope is the continued success of the Rays, because they really have had a phenomenal run, will help build their fan base, and the building of their fan base in the Tampa region will be an assistance in terms of them getting a (long-term stadium deal),” Manfred said Tuesday, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays ranked 29th in attendance per game in 2019, finishing higher than only the Miami Marlins, according to Baseball-Reference. Fans weren’t able to attend games in 2020 until the National League Championship Series due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“I think that the Rays are an example of what’s great about our game,” Manfred added. “And what I mean by that is that there’s lots of different ways to put together a roster that can be really, really effective. And I think that the fact that the Rays have done it with more limited resources than almost any other club is a phenomenal accomplishment. It’s a credit to their ingenuity, their talent, their innovation. And now we should celebrate the Rays.”

Rays ownership has explored alternatives to St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field, the only fixed-dome stadium remaining in MLB. The club had a proposal in July 2018 to relocate to Ybor City, a neighborhood of Tampa, but it wasn’t viable.

The team has also mulled a two-stadium plan, playing half its home games in Florida and the other half in Montreal.

The current lease between the Rays and St. Petersburg expires at the end of the 2027 season.

There’s no indication where the Toronto Blue Jays will play in 2021, but MLB commissioner Rob Manfred plans to do everything he can to ensure they return to their home city next season.

“The one thing I can say is that we will do everything humanly possible to convince the government that the Blue Jays should play in Toronto next year,” he told Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.

The Blue Jays played most of their home games at Sahlen Field in Buffalo during the 2020 campaign after the Canadian government denied them permission to play at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Plans to host home games in Pittsburgh and Baltimore were similarly rejected earlier this year.

Sahlen Field usually houses Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate, and there were some initial concerns about whether it could properly host major-league games.

“No rap on minor-league facilities in general or Buffalo in particular, our major-league facilities are really, really nice, and players are used to a certain level of facility to go to work in,” the commissioner said before adding how impressed he was with the Blue Jays’ transformation of the stadium.

“What they accomplished … is unbelievable, literally unbelievable.

Manfred added: “Not only was it playable, and serviceable, but the work they did actually created that feeling of this is the Blue Jays’ home, which I think is really important to the psyche of the team and the ability of the team to perform, and an unbelievable accomplishment given the tight timeframe.”

The Blue Jays clinched their first postseason berth since 2016 on Thursday, celebrating the accomplishment on Sahlen Field’s mound with a riveting speech from veteran catcher Caleb Joseph.