If the average team scores four runs per game, is that a problem for Major League Baseball? And, if so, is there anything MLB should do about it?
Commissioner Rob Manfred isn't sure, on either score.
The average team scored 4.07 runs per game last season, the lowest figure since 1981. That figure dropped for the third consecutive season, down from 4.61 in 2009 and 5.14 in 2000, at the height of the steroid era.
"We haven’t reached the conclusion we have a problem yet," Manfred said at a news conference Monday.
What Manfred would like to determine is whether the issue is cyclical or foundational -- that is, will a wave of low scoring be followed by a wave of high scoring as players and teams make natural adjustments, or does Major League Baseball have to consider such interventions as lowering the mound, eliminating the low strike or restricting defensive shifts?
"Sometimes what you think is going to be a problem turns out not to be a problem," Manfred said. "We’re really in the phase of trying to decide whether the decline in offense is a persistent problem or an aberration that will self-correct."
Manfred also said he would like to "reverse the trend" of longer games; the average major league game lasted a record three hours and two minutes last season. In the wake of the Boston Red Sox committing $63 million to sign Cuban free-agent infielder Yoan Moncada, Manfred said there would be "a natural symmetry" to extending the draft to international amateurs, a subject he expected to be among the topics in the 2016 round of collective bargaining.
Although Pete Rose has said he hopes Manfred will review his lifetime banishment from the game, the new commissioner said he has not received a reinstatement request from Rose and would not say what might happen if Rose submits a request.
Manfred also said he remains committed to adopting a policy on discipline for players involved in domestic violence, although he has missed his timetable for an agreement with the players union before spring training. Such situations currently are handled on a case-by-case basis.
Manfred said educational sessions on domestic violence will be held in major and minor league clubhouses this spring, in conjunction with the union. He said he hopes to strike a deal with the union by opening day on a discipline protocol.
"Frankly, I would be disappointed if we were not able to come to an agreement," Manfred said.
Said union spokesman Greg Bouris: "Players -- as husbands, fathers, sons and boyfriends -- abhor the prevalence of domestic abuse throughout our society. Although we can't put a time frame on it, and despite having a procedure in place to address this issue and others like it, we are hopeful that a more complete, comprehensive policy that covers all major league personnel will deter future abuse, promote victim safety and serve as a model for others, will be developed."