MLB's Rob Manfred: Science may be behind increased drug positives

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Friday, May 20, 2016

NEW YORK -- Improved science could be a reason behind baseball's increase in positive drug tests.

There have been eight suspensions announced this year under the major league program for positive tests for performance-enhancing drugs, one more than in all of 2015, and reigning National League batting champion Dee Gordon of the Miami Marlins was among those penalized. There were just two in 2014 and none in 2013.

"The windows of detection on certain substances have been lengthened," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners meeting. "That may be one on explanation for what we're seeing."

Manfred also said speculation that NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs may have used PEDs was "distasteful," "inappropriate" and "unfair." Arrieta said last month his teammates had heard rumors and called it "flattering."

"There's one way to know: Did he test positive or did he not?" Manfred said.

On another much-discussed topic, Manfred said the decrease in minority managers to two was "the nature of the game." There were as many as 10 in 2002 and 2009, and the firing of Fredi Gonzalez this week left no Latino managers remaining in the majors. Washington's Dusty Baker and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Dave Roberts are the only African-American managers.

"You're going to have periods of time where these numbers ebb and flow," Manfred said. "To the extent that our fans, the people with whom we do business, are focusing on a particular area and perceive a lack of diversity, that's an issue that we work very hard to avoid."

On other topics:


Manfred said management and the players' union have met 12 times in the early stages of bargaining for a labor contract to replace the deal that expires Dec. 1. Manfred hopes to reach an agreement this autumn.

"You've got to get everything out there before you can figure out how you can put the pieces together," he said.


The average time of a nine-inning game was 2 hours, 59 minutes, 54 seconds through Wednesday, up from 2:53:19 for a similar period at the start of last season, when pace-of-play initiatives such as clocks to time between-innings breaks were introduced. Manfred said players were receiving letters and phone calls and communications from their teams.

"Pace of game is an issue that requires constant vigilance and focus," he said. "We're not happy with the returns."


Manfred said it is possible "we'll make adjustments to the system in order to make sure that we're getting the calls that matter right and that we're not overdoing it in terms of the amount of replay we're subjecting the fans to. ... I recognize the fact that one additional call correct comes at the cost of a four-minute delay. You've got to ask yourself whether it's worth it or not."


Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman, who returned this month from a 29-game suspension under baseball's new domestic violence policy, has maintained he didn't do anything wrong. Manfred would not directly address Chapman's contention but said the pitcher must undergo counseling.

"We have the best counselors in the world, and I'm confident they'll make a positive impact on that situation," Manfred said.


The Walt Disney Co., other businesses, hedge funds and private equity have expressed interest in a transaction involving BAM Tech, according to a person at the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized. BAM Tech was split off last year from Major League Baseball Advanced Media, and the NHL acquired equity in a deal last summer.


Baltimore and Washington are still fighting in court over what the Nationals should receive for their 2012-16 television rights from the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, which is controlled by the Orioles. At the request of the Orioles and MASN, a New York state judge last year threw out a decision by MLB's Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee that said the Orioles should receive $298 million from MASN for that five-season span. The Nationals want the matter returned to the RSDC.

"The Orioles agreed that the RSDC would set the rights fees for MASN and the Orioles every five years," Manfred said. "The Orioles have engaged in a pattern of conduct designed to avoid that agreement being effectuated."


Manfred said clubs expressed they would encourage their players to participate in the fourth edition of the World Baseball Classic, scheduled for next year.


MLB and DraftKings announced an exclusive partnership in April 2015, but marketing efforts have minimized as state regulators have limited daily fantasy sports companies.

"There's not a lot of buzz among the group internally," Manfred said. "I think we're waiting to see how the daily fantasy issue works out from a regulatory perspective before we make any moves."