The return of Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings gave us the opportunity to chat with all 30 managers in the same room for the first time since 2019.
We didn’t want to miss an opportunity like that. So we asked all the major-ball strategists for their thoughts on the new baseball rules debuting next season (implementation of a pitch timer, ban on defensive shifts, among others), the new playoff structure that debuted in 2022, their strongest rivals and what they think of their colleagues.
Below is a sample of their responses.
The new Major League Baseball rules: Are they right, wrong or it doesn’t matter to you?
David Bell, Cincinnati Reds: They excite me a lot, it will be a faster sport. They will all affect gameplay in different ways.
In my opinion, the most important one, and the one I’ve thought about a lot, is the two twists of the pitcher due to the opponent’s plate appearance and the throwing restrictions. That will truly change this sport. It will bring speed, from a base-stealing standpoint.
Even the prohibition of the ‘shift’ will result in more hits being connected. Contact will be much more important, base running, in general, will be a higher priority. I think a lot of us enjoy that style of play.
Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays: The timer for pitches. That excites me. It will speed up the game. They are too long. If we play the Red Sox or Yankees, it ends up being four-hour games. Honestly, I’m not quite sure how it will impact our pitchers. They will figure it out.
Scott Servais, Seattle Mariners: Will create more action. It will create more offense, which is what our sport needs. We are in the entertainment business. We need action. That’s what the fans want to see.
You cannot continue playing the same sport that was practiced in the 40s and 50s. It evolves. We must evolve with it. Players will adjust. Timer for pitches, they’ll adjust. It really hasn’t been a big problem at the minor league level. Once they understand the rule change and how it works, the guys are very good at making adjustments.
Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota Twins: We will have to manage and train teams in ways we haven’t thought of up to this point. However, I think the rule changes will help our sport. Yes I think this will be the case. We work with the details. Our players will adapt. They adapt to everything.
AJ Hinch, Detroit Tigers: I would say that the timer will be an even greater adjustment than the position where we play [a consecuencia de la prohibición del ‘shift’]. The position where we play will be very, very normal, and they will adapt quickly. How quickly pitchers and hitters who overshoot time limits feel, that’s going to be a big adjustment.
It worries me more from the point of view of hitting than pitching. I think the pitching will make adjustments relatively quickly. Young pitchers, certainly the ones on our team, have already done that before, some guys in the bullpen are going to have to adjust a little quicker. Hitters may be the most likely to complain the loudest.
Dusty BakerHouston Astros: I’m not thinking about that. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it. Now I’m wondering if I can spend some time duck hunting and some fishing, you know what I mean? I’m serious.
Which opposing hitter is the last one you want to face at zero hour of a game?
Bud Black, Colorado Rockies: Ninth inning. Bases full. You can’t move the corners of the plate without ‘shifts’. I wouldn’t want to face Freddy Freeman.
Derek Shelton, Pittsburgh Pirates: Paul Goldschmidt. Definitely. Without any reservation. Perhaps it has some bias due to the fact that we see it daily; but his ability to fight every turn, his ability to get foul pitches, his ability to use all the field are elements that always stand out.
Brian Snitker, Atlanta Braves: I always hate facing Juan Soto, be it in decisive moments or not. He is a tremendous hitter, he takes the ball very far, he is very strong. Simply, he is a very dangerous boy and with a lot of security.
Rob Thomson, Philadelphia Phillies: Yordan Alvarezjust because he keeps beating us.
John Schneider, Toronto Blue Jays: With the game at a turning point, I don’t want to face Xander Bogarts. He puts the ball in play and does damage.
Which pitcher (not on your team) would you like to hand the ball over to with the season on the line?
Black: A Justin Verlander. Just watching him pitch, his game and how he works each game. I would choose him. The fact that he is 39 years old answers a lot of questions regarding the great quality of him.
Having this level, at that age, tells you a lot about his work ethic, his preparation, his competitiveness. Those things make a difference when it comes to pitching in big games. Those around me know that I talk a lot about standing the test of time. And this guy, in the current age, has gotten through it better than anyone.
Dave Martinez, Washington Nationals: Max Scherzer. You know what it will give you. He is a great competitor.
snitker: Probably the pitcher the Rangers just signed, Jacob deGrom. One of my favorites. All. It is your competitiveness. His personality, especially while I’ve been getting to know him. He is one of the best in this sport.
Bob Melvin, San Diego Padres: Chris Bassitt. Because he’s pitched for me before, I know what he’s got, and I’m probably partial to him.
Who (after you) is the best manager in all of baseball?
Melvin: Craig Counsell. I’ve seen him evolve from a baseball player to a front office staff to the manager I always knew he would be.
Black:Terry Francona. From managing a team against him, watching his games, seeing him in the playoffs, I think he has great insight as the game goes on. I think he has great insight into his players. That stands out to him. And I’ve known him for a long time. His instinct is exceptional and I think he combines his mind with his instinct in the right way.
Martinez: Dusty Baker. I love it. I loved playing for him and he is a good man. He makes me so happy that he won the World Series.
Shelton:Kevin Cash. There is a bias. I worked with Kevin and was part of his coaching staff. But the way he treats his players, the information and the way he analyzes it. Without a doubt, I think he is the best manager in all of baseball.
thomson: Because of his experience and knowledge, from spending so much time involved in player development, Buck Showalter.
Schneider: Bruce Bochy, who has just returned. I remember admiring him for the work he did in San Francisco.
What did you think of last season’s playoff expansion?
Bruce Bochy, Texas Rangers: I think it’s the first thing you see when they enlarge. You always think, ‘God, they’re going to take it all in.’ But he was positive for baseball. It was. You look at how it happened and I know that certain questions still persist; Well, well, some teams were eliminated, it affected them. But the best team won.
The best team was the World Series champion. And I think that the interest that aroused was positive for this sport. It’s positive for many fans across our country. And many teams fought until the end to get there. So it seems good to me.
Gabe Kapler, San Francisco Giants: I believe that [es] truly positive for baseball. More opportunities for more fans to feel involved for a longer period of the season, it’s really good for all of us.
I think there were some challenges that were widely noted and I don’t think I need to repeat them. But to a greater extent, I think baseball really benefited from last year’s playoff format.
snitker: I loved. I think it was excellent for this sport. I think it worked. The entire format really worked and fans enjoyed great series. It was fun, a great thing for the fans.
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What do MLB managers think about the new rules, their rivals and their colleagues?