ST. PETERSBURG — Commissioner Rob Manfred is coming to the Trop today. Hmm. Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg will be there to greet him. Hmmmm. And they have a scheduled joint media session. Hmmmmmmmmm.
Hopes down, Rays fans and foes. Manfred is not coming to make any big announcement.
Not to say the Rays have solved their decade-long search for a new stadium (or something creative, like Major League Baseball is going to kick in $200 million to pay for part of it).
And not to say that MLB has had enough of low attendance and parochial politics and is moving the team to Montreal after the next road trip.
This is just a routine visit, like he made to Detroit on Monday, to see teams and staff and stadiums.
And you can expect his standard answers on the Rays' biggest issue: that he remains hopeful and optimistic they'll get a new ballpark, and while he hasn't set a deadline, obviously sooner is better so MLB isn't forced to consider other options.
He'll also talk about the state of the game. And while here, he'll also do some listening. So in our role as always trying to be helpful and spur conversation, we went around the clubhouse to ask players and staff what suggestions they'd offer if Manfred asked. Here are some of the more interesting answers.
Some were rather specific:
• Manager Kevin Cash: "Interleague play isn't fair. Get rid of it. Any given year a team could run into (playing teams from) a division that's stacked, and at the end of the season those losses have an impact if you get in the playoffs or not. It's not an equal schedule."
• Bench coach Tom Foley: "September callups, there should be a limit on how many guys you can use. You can change pitchers after one hitter, you can make three pitching changes in one inning. And limiting trips to the mound might be another one."
Some want Manfred to slow down on making further changes, citing the implementation of replay, and alterations of the slide, collision and intentional walk rules.
• Third baseman Evan Longoria: "The only thing that I would say is to think long and hard about making any other changes. There's been so many changes made in the past three-five years that guys, especially within the league, are looking the other way, like maybe we should not try and change the game as much as we are because it's starting to become a little different game than the fans are used to, especially the traditionalist fans. I know that's kind of a thing they are looking now at the millennials and trying to get a new group of fans. … I think it's the greatest game ever invented, and I caution against trying to reinvent the game."
• Second baseman Brad Miller: "Don't worry about the pace of play. Baseball is unique, and part of it is the skill of the hitter trying to control the at-bat and as the pitcher is trying to control it. And no pitch clock, that would give the pitcher an advantage."
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Some took different sides of the same issue:
• Catcher Wilson Ramos: "The only thing to change would be to put the DH in the National League, so another player gets an opportunity."
• Pitcher Jake Odorizzi: "I like to hit so I'd like to eliminate the DH. I know other pitchers don't. But for me it's a good tool to take away from your time on the mound. It gives you a focus. And it gives you perspective you can take back out there with you."
• Outfielder Steven Souza Jr.: "Adding the DH to the NL. It could add another job for a guy over there. It's like a totally different game over there."
Some got technical:
• Leftfielder Corey Dickerson: "Not let pitchers start from the stretch so they can't quick pitch. We work all day to hone in on our skills, and not to have the fair opportunity to have a normal at-bat feels like it takes something away."
• First baseman Logan Morrison: "A more defined balk rule. … And maybe a more refined strike zone."
And some looked off the field:
• First-base coach Rocco Baldelli: "I'd like to see MLB investing significant resources into researching and improving the diversity in the game (among non-playing personnel). I think there are a lot of very good baseball people who are close to having a big impact in what goes on on and off the field but don't have the resources or the ability to get where they want to be and where they could be."
• Pitcher Alex Cobb: "More entertainment in the stadium. More like what they have at football and basketball games. More up to date, more cultured. Make it an experience. There's so many opportunities with the new LED lights, you could black out the stadium for a minute. Have you gone to any Lightning games? You go there, it's a show. You're getting every single dollar's worth. Here the game's great, very entertaining. But you're going to be at a park for three hours, you need more stimulus."
• Reliever Sergio Romo: "Nothing outrageous. How about every team has cheerleaders — its own cheerleading section."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.