HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – New MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said two days ago that the Astros’ turnaround was at the top of his list of MLB storylines so far this season.
On Wednesday, he was in town to expand on that assessment.
“Everybody loves turnarounds,” Manfred said a couple of hours before the Astros took on the Rangers. “There’s something about the human condition that makes you love a turnaround. I actually met with the Astros’ entire front office group before I went down to see the players and I think the nice thing about this turnaround is that Jim Crane, Jeff Luhnow, (and) the entire front office developed a strategy. It was a strategy that took into account really significant changes that were going on in the game, most particularly in the amateur talent acquisition area. It always makes me feel good when people pick a strategy, stick to it, and enjoy success maybe a little faster than they thought they were going to get there.”
Manfred touched on a variety of topics with the media. With the players, his purpose was to mainly develop a familiarity with them, talk about baseball’s initiative to speed up the game, and to answer whatever questions the players may have.
As it relates to the Astros, Houston is coming off a draft where they selected Brady Aiken with the first overall selection, but then having the two sides not being able to agree to a deal after the Astros found a medical issue in Aiken’s arm. Aiken is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery to repair the UCL in his left elbow.
Manfred seemed open to more medical transparency.
“I think, in the day of electronic medical records, the logistical challenges there are not as great as some might expect,” Manfred said. “Certainly, you could do things like a combine. It would require us to look at the calendar. But, in other contexts, I’ve talked about the the fact that the draft calendar, College World Series, those various things that happen in those same few weeks, we could probably do a little better job of sequencing those events if we really sat down and worked at it.”
But overall, Manfred was pleased with how the MLB draft is currently constructed.
“I think the amateur draft system, as reformed in the last basic agreement, particularly on the domestic side, we feel has worked very effectively,” Manfred said. “I think you have to judge effectiveness against the goals of the system. (The) goals of the system are to make sure that the team that finished worst the last year has maximum access to the very best talent. And I think that the job that’s done by (the Astros) demonstrates that the system works pretty well.”
Manfred also talked about Craig Biggio, who’ll become the first Astro inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in the upcoming class.
“For a franchise to have its first player going in the Hall of Fame, it is a great institution,” Manfred said. “And obviously, for a club to get its first player is a very, very exciting event and I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of representatives from Houston in Cooperstown come July.”
Manfred is in the midst of visiting with players and club officials from all 30 major league teams. He is in his first season as the commissioner of Major League Baseball.
“More than anything, I think he’s trying to increase familiarity with a new generation of players,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “Because all of us in the game, with the exception of maybe some of the coaches, haven’t had a change in that seat. We’ve had Commissioner (Bud) Selig certainly my whole career, all of our players’ careers. Maybe some of the older coaches (have been through another commissioner). So it’s a first time for him to probably feel connected with today’s players.”