KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Praising the transition as quick and orderly, Bud Selig announced Thursday that baseball owners unanimously approved a five-year term for Rob Manfred, who will succeed the longtime commissioner early next year.
Selig spoke at the conclusion of two days of meetings in Kansas City, where owners discussed a variety of issues that included pace of play, instant replay and domestic violence initiatives.
Selig will chair his final owners’ meeting in January in Arizona.
“I’ve been so busy and every day is so frenetic that the last month or two, I’m sure I’ll spend a lot of time thinking about it,” Selig said, “but you know, we are where we want to be. We’re having a wonderful transition, orderly transition, good transition. That’s very important.”
Manfred, who has worked for MLB since 1998, was chosen to replace the 80-year-old Selig in August over Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner. He will assume office Jan. 25.
“It hits me every day when I go to work,” Manfred said. “I agree with Commissioner Selig, we’ve had a really productive and smooth transition.”
One of Manfred’s mandates will be to attract young fans back to baseball, and many believe that will involve speeding up the game. The average time of a nine-inning game increased from 2 hours, 33 minutes, in 1981 to a record 3:02 this year, with postseason games stretching nearly 4 hours.
Selig appointed a committee chaired by Braves President John Schuerholz to discuss ways to improve the pace of play. Among the ideas experimented during the Arizona Fall League were pitch clocks and requiring hitters to remain in the batter’s box between pitches.
MLB can’t alter the rules for 2015 without agreement from the players’ association, though it can implement changes unilaterally with one year advance notice. Selig said union head Tony Clark and other representatives from the players’ association provided their input.
“I want the committee to continue to do its work,” Selig said. “This was very productive in terms of ideas. The experience in the Arizona Fall League made quite an impact on a lot of people.”
When changes may be implemented at the major league level remains to be seen. Selig said he wants to “push them” and will have more to say on the subject in the next couple months.
Owners also spent time discussing the first season of expanded instant replay, largely considered a success after several calls were overturned during the postseason.
The system also slowed games. Given the opportunity to challenge everything from force and tag plays to fan interference and home runs, managers often stalled in the middle of the diamond while awaiting word from their dugout whether to contest a call.
“I think the core of replay will be similar,” Manfred said. “I think the changes we’re contemplating — without getting into them — are largely technology improvements. ... I think there are also some issues related to exactly how long it takes to get replay going.”
MLB Executive Vice President Joe Torre said during a recent meeting of general managers in Phoenix that putting a stop to all the lingering would be a priority.
“That’s one area we’ll do something differently,” Torre said. “I’m not sure what that is, but certainly we will eliminate some of that standing around because 10 seconds is a long time.”
Selig also applauded the record-breaking $325 million. 13-year deal reached by the Miami Marlins and Giancarlo Stanton, calling it the “objective of everything we did” in changes to the game’s economic model, which included revenue sharing and luxury taxes.
“What I like is individual franchises making decisions to make themselves better, Selig said. “I’ve been reading all the clips, and I do think they’re happy in South Florida, and they should be. It’s a good sign, a very good sign for them, and that’s how you have to look at it.”
MLB Executive Vice President Dan Halem provided owners with an update on a comprehensive domestic violence program that is being developed for players and non-players alike. Domestic violence has become an issue of increased importance across professional sports.
To underscore that point, Selig announced the Seattle Mariners had received the Commissioner’s Award for Philanthropic Excellence for their “Refuse to Abuse” program. The state-wide educational initiative is designed to promote healthy relationships in Washington state.
“It was really great competition. We had three or four clubs, tough decisions to make,” Selig said. “It’s a program that goes around the state of Washington on domestic abuse, and they’ve been doing it a long time. This isn’t something that just happened.”