Rob Manfred: Fans Acted Like MLB Rule Changes Were ‘Crime Against Humanity’

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred arrives at Nationals Park for the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals opening day baseball game, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred hasn’t made any friends among baseball purists, but he’s confident in his record running the sport.

Manfred spoke to Evan Drellich of The Athletic as he approaches five years running MLB, defending several of his rule changes as being good for the sport:

“The tiebreak rule. I’m not saying that we’re going to stay with it, I really am not. We went to it as part of the COVID protocols. … But if you look at it when prior to the pandemic people talked about it: Oh my God, it was like a crime. It was like you were committing a crime against humanity. Now people have seen it in action and there’s lots of people saying, ‘You know what, this is actually OK.’

“The catcher-collision rule, that was going to be the end of humanity. Turns out it was a good thing. The change on the rule at second base, same thing. The four-pitch intentional walk, nobody even thinks about it anymore.”

To say public reaction to Manfred’s tenure has been a mixed bag would be kind. The baseball commissioner has been roundly criticized for his changes to the game by fans and players alike, along with drawing scorn for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.

While some of the changes, like the intentional walk rule and collision rule at home plate, have made the game better and safer, others have made less sense. The rule that requires pitchers to face at least three batters has greatly limited in-game strategy and the role of specialists. While most of those changes were ostensibly made to hasten the pace of the game, baseball games take on average three hours and seven minutes—seven minutes longer than 2015.

Manfred said of his changes:

“I think it’s the discussion of change. Their logic, I believe, is: ‘He wants to change it, therefore he doesn’t love it.’ My logic is: ‘I love it, it needs to be consummate with today’s society in order for people to continue to love it, and therefore, I’m willing to take whatever criticism comes along in an effort to make sure the game is something Americans will continue to embrace.'”