No big rules changes in 2017; Rob Manfred blames the union’s “lack of cooperation”

Rob Manfred
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There have been a number of possible rules changes discussed this offseason, most of which would be aimed at speeding up the pace of play. Automatic intentional walks and pitch clocks have been mentioned. Limiting trips to the mound. Some more radical experiments have been suggested as well.

All of the ideas about potential rules changes have started with the league and ownership. They were then informally vetted through columns from well-connected columnists, all of which portrayed them as feasible and not insane, even though some of them are a bit out there. Of course, any substantive rules changes have to be agreed to by the union, so the mere fact of the league’s mentioning a change and pushing it on to their sources in the media does not mean they are a done deal or even close to a done deal.

Rob Manfred would prefer you not be reminded of that, however. He’d prefer that you think of these changes as all-but-implemented before the evil Players Union swooped in to ruin things. I mean, how else is one to take this:

The “lack of cooperation” spin is subtle, but significant. He wants to portray the MLBPA as intransigent — as kids stomping their feet — not as an equal partner in the process of rule making. He wants to make every single complaint about a long game or a slowly-played game an indictment of the players, not a product of many decisions and priorities, most of which are league and club priorities, not player priorities. Things like start times for games and commercial break length and in-game entertainment and advertisements and what have you. Nope, it’s all the players.

Maybe — and hear me out — the rules changes proposed by the league were dumb? Maybe players have every right to say so and to weigh in on the terms of their employment? Maybe they don’t like being dictated to like the league has appeared to be doing and they don’t like to have to answer questions from reporters based on an agenda set on Park Avenue as opposed to in their own clubhouse. Could Manfred not know this?

Hahaha, of course knows all of this. He is an expert when it comes to collective bargaining and labor relations so he knows perfectly well that the players have a say on these things. But he also knows full well that it’s in MLB’s best interest to have fans think that the players are spoiled babies who whine about not getting their way. And his comments here are calculated to create that impression among baseball fans.

 

Brown hired as general manager of Houston Astros

astros general manager
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HOUSTON — In joining the World Series champion Houston Astros, new general manager Dana Brown’s goal is to keep the team at the top of the league.

“I’m coming to a winning team and a big part of what I want to do is sustain the winning long term,” he said. “We want to continue to build, continue to sign good players, continue to develop players and continue the winning success.”

Brown was hired by the Astros on Thursday, replacing James Click, who was not given a new contract and parted ways with the Astros just days after they won the World Series.

Brown spent the last four seasons as the vice president of scouting for the Atlanta Braves.

“He is very analytic savvy,” Astros’ owner Jim Crane said. “He’s a great talent evaluator based upon what we’ve seen at the Braves, seasoned at player acquisitions, seasoned at player development and retention. They were often able to extend some of their player contracts… he’s got great people skills, excellent communicator and, last but not least, he’s a baseball player and knows baseball in and out and we were very impressed with that.”

The 55-year-old Brown becomes the only Black general manager in the majors and joins manager Dusty Baker to form just the second pairing of a Black manager and general manager in MLB history. The first was general manager Ken Williams and manager Jerry Manuel with the White Sox.

Brown said he interviewed for GM jobs with the Mets and Mariners in the past and that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told him to stay positive and that his time to be a general manager would come.

“It’s pretty special,” he said. “We understand that there are a lot of qualified African Americans in the game that know baseball and that could be a big part of an organization and leading organization in baseball operations. So at the end of the day, I think it’s good for our sport to have diversity and I’m really excited for this opportunity.”

Crane was asked about having the league’s only Black general manager.

“Certainly, we are very focused on diversity with the Astros,” he said. “It’s a plus, but the guy’s extremely qualified and he’ll do a great job. It’s nice to see a man like Dana get the job and he earned the job. He’s got the qualifications. He’s ready to go.”

Brown doesn’t have a lot of connections to the Astros, but does have some ties. He played baseball at Seton Hall with Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, who spent his entire career with the Astros and serves as special assistant to the general manager. He played against fellow Hall of Famer and special assistant to the general manager Jeff Bagwell in the Cape Cod league during a short minor league career.

Brown said he spoke to both of them before taking the job and also chatted with Baker, whom he’s know for some time.

“Dusty is old school, he cuts it straight and I like it,” Brown said. “And so that means I can cut it straight with him.”

Brown worked for the Blue Jays from 2010-18 as a special assistant to the general manager. From 2001-09 he worked as director of scouting for the Nationals/Expos. He began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he spent eight years as their area scouting supervisor and East coast cross checker.

Click had served as Houston’s general manager since joining the team before the 2020 season from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Brown, who has been part of drafting a number of big-name players like Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman and last season’s National League rookie of the year Michael Harris, is ready to show Crane that bringing him to Houston was the right choice.

“Baseball is all I know, it’s my entire life,” he said. “So I want to empty myself into this city, the Astro fans and let Jim Crane know that he made a special pick.”