LOS ANGELES — By the time the next All-Star Game rolls around, baseball could look a little different.
There are not any major changes in the store — a potential automated strike zone is not on the docket just yet — but beginning in 2023, a pitch clock, bigger bases and restrictions on shifts could be introduced to Major League Baseball depending on the decisions of the sport’s competition committee. The 11-person panel is made up of six management representatives, four players and one umpire, with a majority vote needed to enact rule changes.
“At this point in time, pitch clock and bases and shifts are the focal point for consideration for 2023,” Tony Clark, the MLB Players Association executive director, said Tuesday in a Q&A with members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. “While the discussion has been ongoing and while players have offered their input on each of the issues, at least the initial proposals on the heels of that input being offered haven’t reflected that input.”
The three changes possible for 2023 have already been put in play in the minor leagues, with mixed reactions. The pitch clock charges pitchers with balls or hitters with strikes if they are not ready on time, the bigger bases are intended to limit injuries at first base and the shift change would limit how drastic defensive shifts have become in recent years.
Clark said the automated strike zone could potentially be up for discussion for the 2024 season.
Other takeaways from Clark and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s BBWAA session:
Gambling has become more intertwined with baseball, including some stadiums even having sportsbooks next door. Clark was asked if gambling was getting too close to comfort.
“Getting? No. Is? Yeah,” Clark said. “We’re in a very delicate and dangerous world here. We hope that it is truly beneficial for our game moving forward and that everyone who is involved benefits from it in one fashion or another. … But when you have players … started having bookhouses following them on social media, that gets you a little twitchy pretty quick.”
Minor leaguers’ salaries have increased in recent years, with teams now required to also provide housing for them. But there is still plenty of room for improvement, with many minor leaguers having to pick up second jobs in the offseason to supplement their salary.
Asked whether MLB owners couldn’t afford to pay minor leaguers more or were just not willing to, Manfred demurred.
“I reject the premise of the question that minor league players are not paid a living wage,” Manfred said.
MLB and the PA face a July 25 deadline to come to an agreement on an international draft system. If they cannot, the qualifying offer system will remain, as the two were tied together when the new collective bargaining agreement was agreed to in March.
“We’re committed to removing [the qualifying offer]Clark said. “But we’re not going to do so at the expense of further damaging the international market and player opportunities.”
lWhile Clark said he was in favor of expansion to 32 teams, Manfred said he could not start that conversation until the substandard stadium issues in Oakland and Tampa Bay were resolved.