MLB Notebook: Manfred cold on the idea of robot umpires, City of Oakland to sell their half of Oakland Coliseum, and more

Brett Holden
22 days ago

Manfred cold on the idea of robot umpires

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke to reporters this week on several topics surrounding baseball this season. When asked about potential changes to how the strike zone is controlled and who controls it, Manfred made it clear that robo-umps will not be the presiding judges of Major League Baseball.
Instead, Manfred prefers the challenge system, allowing hitters and pitchers to challenge a call made by the home plate umpire. Challenges would be limited to only a few per game for each team. 
This system has already been tested around the Minor Leagues for a couple of seasons now and is already in its second season in Triple-A. But Manfred still tossed some cold water on the implementation of the system anytime soon at the Major League level.
We still have some technical issues. I don’t mean technology, I mean technical issues in terms of the operation of the system.”
The technical issues Manfred is concerned about have made the system take a back seat in the MLB’s plans for next season and still needs some work on the function of the rule. 
We haven’t made as much progress in the Minor Leagues this year as we hoped at this point. I think it’s becoming more and more likely that this will not be a go for ’25.”
One of the big issues the MLB is facing is the shape of the strike zone. The shape would change depending on the varying height of the hitters and what would be recognized as a ball or a strike on borderline pitches. 
When the League approached the MLBPA about the idea of the automated ball-strike system (ABS), to Manfred’s surprise, there was resistance from the Players Association. 
Originally, we thought everybody was going to be wholeheartedly in favour of the idea…One thing we’ve learned in these meetings is that the players feel there could be other effects on the game that would be negative if you used it full-blown.”
The concern that the players have when it comes to the ABS is the effect it would have on catchers who specialize in framing and scoring some extra strikes for their pitchers. Currently, there are five catchers in the MLB with a strike rate of over 50%: Alejandro Kirk (52.8%), Jose Trevino (52.7%), Jake Rogers (52.6%), Bo Naylor (51.1%), and Ben Rortvedt (50.6%). Between those five, they combine for a .219 batting average with 11 bombs and 53 RBIs, so their defensive capabilities are what really forces their playing time. Another key example is the Los Angeles Dodgers long-time catcher, Austin Barnes. Barnes has only swung over .215 once since 2018 and that was during the Covid-shortened 2020 season. In those six years, Barnes is batting .216 with 23 home runs and 110 RBIs but is in the midst of his ninth year in the MLB with one of the best teams in all of baseball. 
Personally, as a traditionalist in the game of baseball and someone who was vehemently against the pitch clock, (and still kind of is), I think this would be a major mistake for the game. Part of baseball is the human error of umpires, players, catchers, hitters, fielders, managers, everybody. It’s a game of errors, there is literally a major stat dedicated to counting the errors of each player. But, it benefits everybody in some way or another. But, just like the pitch clock, I’m sure I can come around to it if done right.

City of Oakland to sell their half of Oakland Coliseum

The City of Oakland has announced that it is selling its half of the Oakland Coliseum amid the departure of the Athletics. The city will sell their share to the African American Sports & Entertainment Group, an organization based out of Oakland. 
The group plans to redevelop the area into an entertainment, sports, education and business district. Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao and representatives of the deal are optimistic the investment by AASEG will make a positive impact on the future of the city. 
Collaborating with Ray Bobbitt and the AASEG team, we are determined to ensure that this project serves as a catalyst for positive change in historically underinvested areas.”
The Oakland A’s had agreed to split Oakland Coliseum with USL Championship side, Oakland Roots SC, and USL Women’s team, Oakland Soul SC. Now this deal with AASEG leaves that decision up in the air and the next step for those teams remains unknown. 
The stadium deal would reach a minimum of $105 million, helping the city erase its $177 million budget deficit. 
AASEG’s plans for the East Bay area don’t stop with its redevelopment. The group is also looking to bring a professional sports team back to Oakland and become the first majority Black-owned NFL team. The organization has wanted to own a sports team since its inception in 2020, and this deal brings it a step closer to that goal, but redevelopment is a key driver to making that dream come true. Founder of AASEG, Ray Bobbitt is encouraged that this deal could be beneficial to change in the future. 
This project is not just about building structures; it’s about building communities and opportunities for future generations.”
The Oakland Athletics will not be paying their rental fees after this season and will play their home games in Sacramento in 2025 through the 2027 season. Their new stadium in Las Vegas will be ready for the 2028 season. 

Quick Notes:

  • Xander Bogaerts will be out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. Bogaerts fractured his shoulder on Monday diving for a ball through the second base gap. Bogaerts will not require surgery and expects to be back late in the summer.
  • 2026 World Baseball Classic host cities revealed. Each pool of the WBC will have a specified host city, Pool A will be stationed in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Pool B will be in Houston, Texas, Pool C will be over in Tokyo, Japan, and Pool D will be in Miami, Florida. 
  • Giants sign Drew Pomeranz. Pomeranz, who began the year in the Dodgers organization, has not pitched in the MLB in three years. Pomeranz underwent surgery to repair a flexor tendon and suffered numerous setbacks in his recovery. The contract with the Giants is a one-year deal.

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