With the Dodgers off the air in a majority of homes in the Los Angeles area for the fourth consecutive season, Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday he would not encourage the team to renegotiate its television contract or find a way to escape it so more fans could see the broadcasts.
Manfred also said his office is looking into how teams use and possibly abuse the new 10-day disabled list, which the Dodgers have used with regularity this season.
The Dodgers sold their local cable rights to Time Warner Cable for a record $8.35 billion. That company since has been acquired by Charter Communications, which sells cable service under the Spectrum name but has not been able to get DirecTV and other major local pay-TV providers to add the team-owned SportsNet LA channel.
“First of all,” Manfred said, “Dodger fans can in fact see the games if they become Charter Spectrum subscribers.”
That is not an option for fans outside Charter Spectrum territory, primarily those on the Palos Verdes peninsula and in southern Orange County.
“True,” Manfred said.
Fans unable or unwilling to sign up for Spectrum have not seen most Dodgers broadcasts since 2013. The Dodgers’ cable contract extends through 2038, with no end in sight to the dispute. If the Dodgers did wish to renegotiate or redo their television agreement, they probably would have to take less money for their cable rights.
“It’s not my job to tell a club to renegotiate its television agreements,” Manfred said. “I think the much more productive course, and we have pursued this course, is to try to work with the parties who actually have an economic interest here” — the Dodgers, Charter and cable and satellite operators.
“I remain very concerned about the issue,” the commissioner added. “As I have said repeatedly, I don’t have a seat at that table.”
In his comments on the disabled list, Manfred didn’t reference the Dodgers or any other specific club.
The Dodgers set a major league record by putting 28 different players on the disabled list last season. They already have put 23 players on the DL this season, including every pitcher in their season-opening rotation except Clayton Kershaw, strategically using the DL as a way to manage an excess of starting pitchers and keep each one fresh.
“Any rule in the world, our guys figure out a way to manage to it,” Manfred said.
The Dodgers put Brandon McCarthy on the DL so he could work on his command, listing his injury as knee tendinitis that he said he had pitched through for weeks. They put Kenta Maeda on the DL on the day after he had pitched 8 1/3 innings, with Manager Dave Roberts saying Maeda had experienced “a hamstring incident a few weeks ago” and expressing organizational concern about “the potential for injury.”
Manfred said he likes the concept of the rule, reducing the minimum DL stay from 15 days to 10 in order to “minimize the amount of time great players might be outside the game, to the detriment of fans.”
No players have complained to their union about misuse of the 10-day DL, said Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Assn. He said players benefit when teams are not forced to decide between playing one man short or putting a player on the DL with an injury that might resolve itself in fewer than 15 days.
“I don’t know that there is much that has happened that we hadn’t anticipated,” Clark said.
Said Manfred: “I don’t like some of the activity that’s gone on in terms of the use of the 10-day DL. We’re having conversations about that internally.”
Manfred also said his office would look into complaints by Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill and Toronto pitcher Marcus Stroman that lower seams on baseballs are leading to what Stroman called “an epidemic” of blisters. But Manfred insisted that multiple tests have shown baseballs remain within league specifications, and he suggested the league might test bats as well as balls to help determine the causes of this year’s spike in home runs.
“Will we probably ever know the whole answer?” he said. “Probably not.”
With Washington set to host the All-Star game next year and Cleveland in 2019, Manfred said he probably would announce the 2020, 2021 and 2022 hosts at the same time. The Dodgers and Chicago Cubs are among the candidates for host teams.
Dodger Stadium has not played host to the All-Star Game since 1980. The Angels, San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants each have hosted the game twice since then.
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