Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said the sport’s drug testing program is improving, and more refined science might be what’s behind the larger number of positive performance-enhancing drug tests — a trend which has already led to the suspension of seven Major League players in this young season.
“The window of detection on certain substances have been lengthened,” Manfred said at the conclusion of the owners meetings at the league offices in midtown on Thursday. “It’s just science getting better. That may be one explanation for what we’re seeing ... There’s not some big additional group of positives sitting out there, I can tell you that.”
The most significant suspension this season has been Marlins second baseman and reigning National League batting champion Dee Gordon, who was suspended for 80 games last month. Gordon has insisted he took a banned substance by accident. The number of suspensions is up from five players all of last season (Former Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia was suspended twice last year, and a third time in February).
“You never want a player to test positive, right?” Manfred said. “On the other hand, we do know that performance-enhancing drugs are a constant temptation and when you catch somebody, I think it’s a validation of the fact the program is working.”
Manfred discussed a range of issues, including the state of labor negotiations. “Everything is going great,” he said, adding that the sides have already had 12 meetings and have put many of their issues on the table.
He also spoke about the pace of games. Manfred last year instituted changes to speed up games, but lengths have seen an uptick this season. According to the Associated Press, the average time of games this season is 2 hours, 59 minutes and 54 seconds through Wednesday’s schedule, which is up from 2:53:19 during the early part of last season. Manfred said he hoped to combat that with continued communication with players and greater focus on speeding things up.
And while he did not go as far as to say that the sport has a diversity problem in its highest ranks, he did say baseball is trying to take concrete steps to address what fans might perceive to be a lack of minorities in managerial positions and otherwise. He added that managers are “a really difficult issue for us.” The Braves fired Fredi Gonzalez on Tuesday, leaving no Latino managers in baseball — a sport where nearly 30 percent of players on Opening Day rosters were Latin American, according to FOX Sports. Gonzalez’s firing also reduced the number of minority managers to two: Dusty Baker of the Nationals and the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts.
Manfred said that MLB has instituted a diversity “pipeline program,” announced in January, that hopes to grow and develop minority talent.
“There’s only 30 (managers), they turn over frequently — that’s the nature of the game — and it’s always going to be the nature of the game,” he said. “You’re going to have periods of time where these numbers ebb and flow. Remember, if you lose two diverse managers, you go from being four out of 30 to two out of 30.”