ST. PETERSBURG — Rob Manfred, the newly elected baseball commission can be, in the words of Rays owner Stuart Sternberg, “an agent of change.”
“And for us, change is a good thing,” Sternberg wrote Friday in an e-mail to The Tribune.
Manfred enters the job as the safe choice to replace Bud Selig, the one who will keep the ship sailing along the same course set by Selig.
Manfred will have some big issues to confront early in his tenure.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after the 2016 season. The Biogenesis scandal, which led to a number of player suspensions last season, could resurface, according to a report in USA Today.
Plus, Manfred and the owners are dealing with the time-of-game issue while trying to come up with ways to reach a generation of fans who have passed over baseball in favor of the NFL and the NBA.
Those are issues that impact all 30 owners.
Closer to home, there are changes that can impact the Rays.
While Sternberg did not go into detail in his e-mail, the Rays, as with the other small-market teams, wouldn’t mind if Manfred tackled the competitive imbalance that exists in the major leagues.
More money in revenue sharing is not the answer. Even with the money the Rays receive from the other teams and in MLB’s lucrative TV deal, the Rays can’t spend like the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox.
The lifeblood of the Rays’ organization is the farm system, and there are changes that can be made to give teams like the Rays better access to the top amateur talent.
It has been discussed among the owners that first round of the draft be weighted toward the teams with smaller revenues. Maybe have those teams draft between 5 and 15 in the first round or give them an extra pick.
The Red Sox, based on their last place finish in 2012, had the seventh overall pick in 2013, the year they would win the World Series with a $154 million payroll.
And, based on their play to this point this season, the Red Sox will draft again in the top 10.
The Rays were able to build their playoff teams thanks to being one of the game’s worst teams through much of their first 10 years. That’s how they were able to draft Evan Longoria with the third overall pick in 2006 and David Price first overall the following year.
Now that they’ve turned into a perennial playoff team, the Rays find themselves picking near the end of the rounds, long after the Longorias and Prices of the draft class have been selected in the first round.
This is the way the draft works. There is a price for winning.
But, the small-revenue teams don’t think it’s fair that the Red Sox or the Cubs have the best of both worlds — draft high after a poor season and still have the money to sign top free agents.
Then there’s the competitive balance draft, which gives teams a pick in the supplemental round. In the three years of its existence, the Cardinals have received two picks, the Rays one.
Will the other owners approve of changes like this to the draft? Can’t see them lining up to help out the have-nots.
But, a new commissioner who seems open to change can help move the sport in that direction.