CHICAGO — Major League Baseball loves it when the announcement of its postseason awards lead to debate, discussion and analysis. Any publicity is good publicity for the game.
But commissioner Rob Manfred probably didn’t expect on Thursday to be addressing saucy comments made on Twitter by supermodel Kate Upton after her fiance, Justin Verlander, finished second in the AL Cy Young Award voting despite having the most first-place votes.
“Look, the particular content of the tweet I’m not going to comment on,” Manfred said with a chuckle at the conclusion of the quarterly owners’ meetings. “I do think that engagement on social media by players and people close to players is important in today’s world. I think that it brings attention to the sport at a point during the year when it’s our offseason and we have less going on. I think that social media is a form of fan engagement that can be useful in terms of growing the sport. But I will close where I started: I’m not going to comment on the particular substance of that tweet.”
Verlander, who went 16-9 with a 3.04 ERA for the Tigers, received 14 first-place votes from the eligible voters of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Two Tampa-based voters left him off their five-man ballot.
The award went to Boston righthander Rick Porcello, who went 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA. Porcello got eight first-place votes and 18 seconds to beat Verlander in total points, 137-132.
Upton disagreed with the voting in a series of tweets on Wednesday evening. One was X-rated. Another said: “He had the majority of 1st place votes and 2 writers didn’t have him on their ballots?!! Can you pick more out of touch people to vote?”
Mets righthander Noah Syndergaard weighed in on Twitter, saying of his NL Cy Young Award vote total: “It’s OK Kate...I only got 4 votes.....total. Nobody likes me.”
Manfred also discussed less sensational topics as the owners finished their two-day gabfest at the Drake Hotel.
The hottest topic was the continuing collective bargaining talks with the players union. The current agreement expires on Dec. 1, and while talks have been cordial, the free-agent signing period has begun without a new deal, leading to some grumbling from clubs who would like to know if the rules are going to change midstream.
“I remain optimistic that we’re going to make a deal,” Manfred said. “This process is not predictable in terms of time. I said there were certain natural deadlines out there. The beginning of the [free agent] market was one and the expiration of the agreement’s another. I’m hopeful we’re going to get a deal done before that latter deadline.”
Manfred declined to discuss what issues are yet to be resolved other than the international draft, which the owners would like to implement to hold down costs on international free agents.
“I don’t want to get into where we are at the table,” he said. “We’re at a point in the process where that’s not just productive. I can tell you, however, that the international draft’s still on the table.”
For openers. MLB and ESPN announced the TV games and times for the first two days of the regular season. The Yankees will open at Tampa Bay at 1:10 p.m. on Sunday, April 2, as one of three national TV games. The World Series champion Cubs will visit the Cardinals in the Sunday night game. The Mets will host the Braves on April 3 at 1:10 p.m. as part of four games on the national TV docket.