KANSAS CITY, Mo. - On the eve of his first World Series as commissioner, Rob Manfred didn't have to face the barrage of Alex Rodriguez questions Bud Selig had to deal with during his final years on the job.
But Manfred has plenty of his own issues, from MLB's thorny entanglement with daily fantasy sites to the lack of minority hires in managerial positions. And from this postseason, there's increasing concern about protecting middle infielders after Chase Utley's aggressive takeout slide fractured Ruben Tejada's leg during the NLDS.
"Those discussions haven't really moved forward," Manfred said, emphasizing that the sport is more focused on the World Series at the moment. "And I want to be clear about this, this isn't about Chase Utley. This conversation about player safety at second base began in our office months before that particular play."
Manfred took a more definitive stance when the subject of the fantasy sites came up. DraftKings recently was exposed by The New York Times on allegations of insider trading, with an employee netting $350,000 through another site, FanDuel. MLB has a lucrative partnership with both sites, and Manfred sees no problems with their association.
"I really don't have regrets about our involvement with fantasy," he said. "I think that fantasy is an important source of fan engagement. It has been for a long time."
But does the commissioner think it's gambling?
"I do not," he said. "I'm quite convinced it is a game of skill, as defined by the federal statute. And I'm comfortable with the idea that it's not gaming.
"There's a huge difference between Rob Manfred, citizen, betting on whether Kansas City beats Toronto or whomever and Rob Manfred picking nine guys off 18 teams to try to see if he can accumulate more points within a given set of guidelines than a hundred guys trying to do the same thing."
Manfred also faced numerous questions about the lack of diversity in the managerial ranks. Of the 30 teams, only one member of a minority group holds that title: the Braves' Fredi Gonzalez, who was born in Cuba. There are four openings yet to be filled -- Lloyd McClendon, who is African-American, was fired by the Mariners -- and Manfred is optimistic.
"First of all, I haven't come to the conclusion that we're going to get to next year with no black managers," Manfred said. "It could happen. I do think that there is a certain cyclical nature to this. Obviously, field managers are high-turnover jobs. And you're going to have peaks and valleys in terms of representation within what's a very small sample. There's only 30 [jobs] out there."
As for this World Series, Manfred sounded pleased that the two teams, both in the middle of the pack in payroll, are continuing a leftover trend from the Selig Era. The Royals have a $112-million roster this season, the Mets about $101 million.
"I think it's positive for the game," Manfred said. "It shows that teams from all sorts of markets, if they have a strategy and stick to it, can win. And I think that's really, really important for the sport, for our fans, to appreciate that fact."