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Major League Baseball mulls over live video limits

By Ronald Blum

AP Baseball Writer

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Major League Baseball intends to impose new limits on what live video is available to teams, and Commissioner Rob Manfred hopes to complete his investigation into alleged electronic sign stealing by the Boston Red Sox before spring training camps open next week.

“I think you should assume that before the season starts we will have new guidelines with respect to the use of video equipment,” Manfred said Thursday after an owners meeting. “I think we have too much video available in real time right now.”

After former Houston pitcher Mike Fiers told The Athletic in November that the Astros used a video camera to steal the signs of opposing catchers in 2017 and 2018, Manfred last month suspended Houston manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for one season, fined the Astros $5 million and stripped them of their first- and second-round drafts picks in 2020 and 2021.

Hinch and Luhnow were fired the same day, and the scandal led to the departures of Boston manager Alex Cora, Houston’s bench coach during its 2017 title run, and New York Mets manager Carlos Beltrán, an Astros player that season.

MLB is investigating a separate allegation the Red Sox broke sign-stealing rules in 2018, when Cora led Boston to the championship in his first season as manager.

“I’m hopeful that I can get Boston done before the camps open,” said Manfred, with workouts to start Wednesday.

Manfred did not punish any Houston players and said no Red Sox players will be sanctioned. But he left open the possibility of discipline for future violations.

“We have the right to discipline players right now. I’m absolutely convinced of that fact,” he said. “We made a decision in the Houston investigation that in order for us to get the facts that we needed, somebody had to get immunity.”

He was not disappointed by the reluctance of current Astros players to apologize.

“I think the jury’s still out on exactly what the Houston players are going to say,” he said, pointing toward spring training as the possible time and place for contrition.

Baseball has looked at earpieces as a way to avoid the use of signs but determined it would be impractical. While football uses earpieces, helmets are much larger than baseball caps.

“It’s much harder to design an earpiece that would be comfortable for players to wear in lieu of signs,” he said, adding, “it’s hard to be as fast as hand signals.”

Astros owner Jim Crane did not attend the meetings. He is playing in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament  along with pitcher Justin Verlander this weekend.

•••

On other matters:

METS SALE

Manfred says talks have ended over the proposed sale of a controlling share of the New York Mets from the families of Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz to hedge fund manager Steven Cohen.

•••

COMPUTERIZED PLATE UMPIRES

Manfred said the automated balls and strikes system will have to be negotiated with the players’ union before it is used in the major leagues. MLB is using the system at nine ballparks of the Class A Florida State League this year and will test it during big league spring training without using it in exhibition games.

“It’s fair to assume that we’re going to continue to test at increasingly significant levels of play to make sure we’ve got it right before we bring it to the major leagues,” he said.

•••

OLYMPICS

Manfred said MLB was discussing whether to make some 40-man roster players available for the Americas Olympic qualifying tournament in Arizona from March 22-26.

“The timing’s a little difficult there,” he said.

Using a team with no 40-man players and few top prospects, the U.S. was three outs from qualifying at the Premier12 tournament last November but wasted a ninth-inning lead against Mexico and lost in 10 innings.

•••

MINOR LEAGUES

Owners were given an update on MLB’s proposal to eliminate 42 minor league affiliates in negotiations for a Professional Baseball Agreement with the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the governing body of the minors. Talks are set to resume Feb. 20. The current deal expires after this season.

“There is unanimous support among the owners for the objectives and the strategy that we’re pursuing with respect to this negotiation, in particular our objectives of modernizing minor league baseball, improving the working conditions of the players who play there,” Manfred said. “I’m hopeful that the minor league negotiating committee is able to get a consensus among its constituents, a consensus that’s strong enough that they can make us finally a written proposal that’s supported by their membership.”

•••

MANFRED CONCERNED WITH TEAM/MEDIA ROLES OF MARTINEZ, MENDOZA

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The dual roles of former Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez and ex-Olympic softball player Jessica Mendoza as team employees and broadcasters have drawn the concern of baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred.

Martinez is a Red Sox special assistant and an analyst for TBS. Mendoza is a New York Mets baseball operations adviser and an ESPN broadcaster.

Both criticized pitcher Mike Fiers for revealing the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scam to The Athletic. Fiers, now with Oakland, sparked an investigation that led to the departures of 10% of the major league managers: Houston’s AJ Hinch, Boston’s Alex Cora and the Mets’ Carlos Beltrán.

“I’m a transparency guy,” Manfred said Thursday after an owners meeting. “That someone should be kind of singled out because they saw something that was wrong and decided to talk about it, I don’t agree with that.”

Martinez, a Hall of Famer, told Boston radio station WEEI “whatever happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse, and Fiers broke the rules.”

Mendoza was a gold medalist for the U.S. at the 2004 Olympics.

“To go public, yeah, it didn’t sit well with me,” she said of Fiers on an ESPN broadcast. “Honestly, it made me sad for the sport that that’s how this all got found out.”

Manfred concluded their comments were made in their roles as journalists.

“I’m not all that comfortable with it. I’m really not,” he said of their dual roles. “It’s a topic that remains under discussion internally. It caused a lot of complications, not just on this particular incident or comments, but in general.”

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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