The return of the MLB winter meetings meant the opportunity to speak to all 30 executives in the same room for the first time since 2019.
Because we didn’t want to miss such an opportunity, we asked the captains about baseball’s new rules coming next season — field time, shift bans and more — about the new playoff structure that debuted in 2022, its toughest opponents. … and each other.
Here is an example of their answers.
MLB’s new rules: Good, bad… indifferent?
David Bell, Cincinnati Reds: [I’m] really excited for them. … It will be a faster game. They will all affect the game differently.
What I think the most for me are the two breakout and shooting restrictions that will really change the game. In terms of a stolen base, speed.
But even not changing gear will lead to more hits. Communication will be more important. In general, baserunning will take priority. I think most of us like this style of play.
Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays: Field time, I’m excited. Speed up the game. They take too long. If we’re playing the Red Sox or the Yankees, these turn into four-hour ball games. I’m not entirely sure how it affects our shooters. They will figure it out.
Scott Servais, Seattle Marines: It will create more action. It will create more offense, that’s what our game needs. We are in the entertainment business. You need action. This is what fans want to see.
You can’t keep playing the same game they played in the 1940s and 1950s. It evolves. We have to evolve with it. Players will adapt. Field clock, they will set. It hasn’t really been a problem at the minor league level. Once they understand the rule change and how it works, guys are really good at adapting.
Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota Twins: We’re going to need to manage and coach some aspects that we didn’t need to think about up to this point. But I think the rule changes will help our game. Actually, I think this will be the case in general.
We are working on the details. Our players will adapt, they will adapt to everything.
AJ Hinch, Detroit Tigers: I would say the clock will be a bigger adjustment than where we play. [as a result of the shift ban]. The place we play will be very, very standard and the kids will get used to it very quickly. For shooters and hitters who are horribly over the time limit, how fast they feel will be a major adjustment.
I’m more interested in the shooter than the shooter. I think the shooting side will adapt relatively quickly. Surely the young shooters in our camp will have gotten this before. … Some arena guys will have to be a little faster. Hitters will probably bark the loudest.
Dusty Baker, Houston Astros: I don’t even think about them. I had plenty of time to think about it. Now I’m thinking, if I can hunt some ducks and fish a little, you know what I mean? I’m serious.
Which opposing spiker would you like to face the least while the game is on the line?
Bud Black, Colorado Rockies: Ninth inning, full of bases, no open base, can’t jump around it, no shift — I wouldn’t want to run into Freddie Freeman.
Derek Shelton, Pirates of Pittsburgh: Paul Goldschmidt. No doubt. hands down. I may be a little biased just because we see him every day, but his ability to smash hits, his ability to foul off the court, his ability to use the whole field is something that really stands out.
Brian Snitker, Atlanta Braves: I’ve always hated facing Juan Soto, game or not. He’s a real hitter, he lets the ball go very deep, he’s very strong. He’s just a very dangerous and overconfident kid.
Rob Thomson, Philadelphia Phillies: Yordan Alvarez for beating us all the time.
John Schneider, Toronto Blue Jays: The game is at stake, I don’t want to face Xander Bogaerts. Puts the ball into play and deals damage.
Which pitcher not on your team would you most like to deliver the ball to when your season is at stake?
Black: Justin Verlander. Just watching his shot, his gear, and how he progressed in a match, I would choose him. … Being 39 years old answers a lot of questions about how good he is. Being this good at this age tells about his work ethic, preparation and competitiveness. These things make a difference when you talk about big game shooters. People around me know that I talk a lot about passing the test of time. And this man has done it as well as anyone in this era.
Dave Martinez, Citizens of Washington: Max Scherzer. You know what to get from it. He is a very good competitor.
Snitker: Probably the man the Rangers signed on, Jacob deGrom. One of my favourites. Everything is competitiveness. His personality, especially as you get to know him. As good as in game.
Bob Melvin, San Diego Padres: Chris Bassitt. I know what he’s about since he’s pitched for me before, and I’m probably biased about it.
Who – besides you – is the best manager in baseball?
Melvin: Craig Consultant. I watched him transform from an actor to a front desk staff member and a manager I always knew he would be.
Black: Terry Franco. From playing against him, watching his games, watching him in the playoffs, I think he has a great feeling as the game progresses. I think he has great feelings for his players. This is something that stands out. And I’ve known him for a long time. His instincts are extraordinary and I think he combines his head with his instincts correctly.
Martinez: Dusty Baker. I love him. I loved playing for him and he’s a good guy. I’m so happy he won the World Series.
Shelton: Kevin Cash. I’m biased, I worked with Kevin and was on his team, but the way he deals with the players, the knowledge and the way he solves them, I definitely think he’s the best manager in baseball.
Thomson: Buck Showalter for his experience and knowledge that has gone through the player development process for as long as he has.
Schneider: Newcomer Bruce Bochy. I remember admiring him while he was doing his job in San Francisco.
What do you think of last season’s extended playoffs?
Bruce Bochy, Texas Rangers: I think you’ll see when they expand first. You always go, man, we’re gonna flood it. But it was good for baseball. It was.
You’re looking at how it’s going and I know some questions remain, some teams are sitting down, it’s affected them. But the best team won. The best team were world champions. And I think the attention it generates is good for the game. Good for many fans in our country. And many teams struggling to finally get there. So, I’m fine with it.
Gabe Kapler, Giants of San Francisco: According to me [it’s] really good for baseball. More opportunities for more fans to invest longer during the season is really good for all of us.
I think there were some well-documented challenges that I don’t need to go over and repeat, but for the most part, I think baseball really benefited from last year’s playoff format.
Snitker: I liked it. I thought it was great for the game. I think it worked. The whole format really worked and the fans had great series. It was fun, it was a great thing for the fans.