Major League Baseball has proposed to the union rule changes for next season that include the elimination of shifts, a pitch clock and larger bases.
In accordance with the new five-year Basic Agreement, the proposals, which were made last week, are now subject to a 45-day period of discussion by a competition committee. That discussion period has just begun, according to Tony Clark, the executive director of the MLB Players Association.
“It’s new a process,” Clark told assembled members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Tuesday before the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium. “We have a lot of active players that are part of the discussion, so it remains to be seen what will come out of that discussion.”
“Those are topics that are being addressed [by] the competition committee,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said, confirming Clark’s statement in a conversation after the meeting.
Clark and Manfred traditionally address members of the BBWAA in an on-the-record session during the organization’s meeting prior to the All-Star Game. This year, Manfred was barraged by questions about expansion and the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays ballpark situations.
Expansion to 32 teams, Manfred said, right now is not on the table, and there’s no timeline.
“I can’t do better on timeline than I need to get Tampa and Oakland situations resolved before we can realistically have a conversation about expansion,” he said. “Those situations are serious enough and timely enough that they have to be our No. 1 focus.”
The Rays, which have an ironclad lease to play under Tropicana Field’s dome through 2027, are studying various new ballpark proposals. The A’s are on a much tighter timetable, considering the deteriorating condition of the Coliseum and a pending vote by the Oakland City Council regarding the $12 billion Howard Terminal ballpark and real estate project.
“I’ve been to the Coliseum myself recently,” Manfred said. “It is a very serious problem for us. This is not news. It’s not a Major League quality facility. I’m hopeful that the Howard Terminal site can still happen. But it needs to happen now.”
Late last month, the A’s leapt over a significant hurdle when the San Francisco Bay Conservation & Development Commission (BCDC) voted to formally remove the Howard Terminal site from port activities, setting up the City Council vote in the fall.
If the measure doesn’t pass, it would open the door for the A’s to move to Las Vegas, eliminating one of MLB’s top expansion markets.
“It needs to be done,” Manfred said. “It needs to be a binding agreement in Oakland quickly.”
When asked about where the A’s would play in the interim if that happens, Manfred declined to be specific. A new Oakland ballpark might not be ready until the 2026 season or beyond, and the A’s only have two more seasons on their current Coliseum lease. “I’m not going to speculate about what might happen if and when they get a new facility,” Manfred said.