A focal point for MLB commissioner Rob Manfred during his tenure has been the sport’s pace of play and ability to entertain and capture a younger audience. That’s prompted MLB to implement various new rules and test others in the Minor Leagues and Atlantic League.
The addition of a timer for teams to leave and take the field between innings was one of the more modest changes from recent years, and utilizing a pitch clock has largely been seamless despite plenty players expressing initial concern.
The current state of the sport continues to be a pointed debate. Owners have pointed to a loss in revenue last year due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and still not being fully operable this season. However, TV contracts have continued to prove lucrative and value of franchises remains on the rise.
And though pace of play is an area of concern for MLB, NBA commissioner suggested to Manfred that he no longer highlight that from a negative perspective in the best interest of potentially incorporating sports betting, per Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times:
Rob Manfred on Sportico Live: "Sports betting is a massive opportunity for fan engagement."
He said Adam Silver told him to stop talking about pace of game, because baseball's pace of game is perfect for sports betting (meaning wagering between pitches and innings).
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) April 27, 2021
While Manfred’s revelation was innocent in nature, the faux pas is certainly not going to do any favors for a reputation that has been on the decline. And that Silver would have the sense to make the connection between pace of play and how it could be financially beneficial for MLB is not much of a surprise.
Although there have been recent criticisms, Silver largely is regarded as the best commissioner of all North American sports leagues. In 2018, a deal was reached with MGM Resorts to make them the exclusive official gaming partner of the NBA and WNBA.
MLB has not ventured into such territory, but is believed to be nearing it as sports gambling gains wider approval throughout the United States.
MLB hires Epstein
Soon after stepping down from his role as Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations, Theo Epstein accepted a position with MLB as a consultant regarding on-field matters.
“It is an honor to assist the efforts by Major League Baseball and the Competition Committee to improve the on-field product, and I appreciate Commissioner Manfred asking me to be a part of these important conversations,” Epstein said in a statement at the time of his hiring.
“As the game evolves, we all have an interest in ensuring the changes we see on the field make the game as entertaining and action-packed as possible for the fans, while preserving all that makes baseball so special. I look forward to working with interested parties throughout the industry to help us collectively navigate toward the very best version of our game.”
Among other duties, Epstein is working with baseball analytics experts for the league and teams to create new rule changes in effort to make the game more entertaining.
Have you subscribed to the Dodger Blue YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, participate in our shows and giveaways, and more!