By Chris Gallagher
TOKYO (Reuters) – Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner Robert Manfred has been proposing various rule changes to speed up the game, but on Tuesday he rejected one idea: letting extra-inning games end in a tie.
Teams play for as long as necessary to get a result in the major leagues, but Japanese professional games are drawn if the score remains level after 12 innings.
“We have never suggested the possibility of a major league game ending in a tie,” said Manfred, who wants to add a pitch clock and limit tactical discussions on the mound to speed up play.
“This may be the most misunderstood suggestion that has been out there,” he told reporters.
He also dismissed the idea that a deadlocked game after 10 innings would let a runner start the next inning on second base, a rule that has been used in international play and is being implemented at the World Baseball Classic tournament.
“We never had any intention of bringing that rule to major league baseball. We adopted it and wanted to use it in the rookie leagues, which are essentially developmental leagues,” Manfred added.
“There’s no developmental reason to play an 18-inning game in 110 degree heat in Arizona in the summer time and have a shortstop pitching out of position in order to play the game to conclusion.”
Manfred is visiting Japan for the start of first-round the World Baseball Classic in Tokyo, where the hosts, Cuba, Australia and China will meet in Pool B.
He admitted there had been some resistance to major leaguers participating in the event due to injury concerns, but found “tremendous ownership support for this event. Literally thirty-to-nothing support,” he said, referring to the 30 MLB teams.
Such resistance could be overcome in part through education, that “people understand how important this event is to the growth and development of the game internationally”, he said.
The Tokyo Olympics could be a thornier issue, however, despite the sport returning to the Games for the first time since 2008.
Manfred noted a general mood of scepticism in the league about participation in the 2020 Summer Games, to be held from July 24 to Aug. 9, because a significant number of players would be away from their teams in the middle of the season.
“I do not believe that our owners would support some sort of a break in our season. Continuity is really important to our competition,” he said.
“Having said all that, I am more than prepared to hear what the event’s going to look like and describe to our owners what our options are with respect to participation.”
The 2017 MLB season opens on April 2 with the Chicago Cubs starting it as the defending World Series champions.
(The story corrects first paragraph to show rules changes not proposed on Tuesday)
(Editing by John O’Brien, Larry King)