Major League Baseball is having conversations with the players' association over possible rule changes designed to speed the pace of play, and Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday he hopes to reach an agreement instead of implementing any measures unilaterally.
Manfred also said the Bruce Sherman-led ownership group trying to purchase the Miami Marlins has presented the league with a financial structure that would work for finalizing the deal, and he expressed confidence that a major league franchise can be successful in the market. Speaking at the conclusion of the owners meetings, he also expressed surprise with veteran umpire Joe West's reaction to his suspension for his comments about Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre.
The average time of a nine-inning game is a record 3 hours, 5 minutes this season, up from 3 hours last year and 2:56 in 2015, Manfred's first season as commissioner. Management proposed making changes for this year, such as installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound by catchers, but players' association head Tony Clark said his side would not agree. The league can implement changes by itself with one-year advance notice.
"We met with Tony Clark and a group of players last week," Manfred said. "The tone of those conversations have been very positive. Hats off to Tony and the players on that, and I remain confident that we will have changes for next year on the issue of pace of game that will be significant."
Manfred declined to get into any specifics about possible changes or what the league might do if it is unable to reach a deal with the union.
"I think the best course for baseball — and by that I mean the clubs and the players — is for us to get an agreement," he said.
Union spokesman Greg Bouris confirmed the dialogue is ongoing, and said players "are committed to discussing ways to enhance the game and move it forward."