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Rob Manfred wants to boost pace of play with shorter commercial breaks

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As part of his attempts to curb the “dead time” that unnecessarily lengthens baseball games, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said that long commercial breaks could be the next thing to go. Shortening commercial breaks wouldn’t be as easy as eliminating the four-pitch walk or even installing pitch clocks in major league ballparks; as Manfred relayed to Forbes’ Maury Brown, there are “contractural limitations” that would prevent the league from cutting down on ads too much between innings.

Still, it’s an interesting idea, and one that’s more palatable than the myriad ways Manfred has suggested tampering with the game itself. According to Brown’s report, Red Sox’ owner Tom Werner is also in favor of the idea, though neither he nor Manfred have devised any concrete ways to shorten commercial breaks without taking a hit in revenue first. Tony Clark, head of the Players Association, reminds the league that any measures taken to shorten games have to benefit the players first, including those who might need the extra time to warm up during pitching changes and inning breaks (via the Boston Herald’s Evan Drellich):

Of more pressing concern is how the league would compensate for lost ad revenue. Brown, among others, suggests that shorter commercial breaks could force teams to install advertisements in the parks themselves or add sponsored logos to players’ uniforms. Neither option seems ideal, but the added distractions could be worth the trade-off of shorter television commercials — at least for the fans watching at home, if no one else.

The driving force behind this proposed change is Manfred’s desire to streamline the average baseball game. He said that while he’s not focused on cutting down the length of games, he wants to ensure that each minute is action-packed, while the “dead periods” between balls put in play get reduced as much as is reasonable. At least on the television front, however, any significant changes to MLB’s regularly scheduled programming are likely still several years away.

Giants remove pitching coach Dave Righetti

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After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.

According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.

Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.

Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.