Major League Baseball and the players union are in agreement that the replay system is largely working as planned, that the length of games needs to be addressed, though not drastically, and that smokeless tobacco use should be discourage -- but perhaps not outlawed.
"We have to address [tobacco] against the backdrop of it being legal," Tony Clark, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association told a luncheon of baseball writers on Tuesday. But "we believe the numbers suggest usage has declined considerably in the major leagues."
Clark also said that the penalizes for signing free agents, a system that eventually delivered Kendrys Morales to the Twins in June because it discouraged teams from signing him to a long-term contract, is a concern of the players union -- but probably not reason enough to alter the system before the collective bargaining system is renegotiated in 2016.
"We're always willing to have a conversation. But to re-open the [current] agreement, that would be difficult," Clark said. "But that will be one of the issues near the top of our agenda" in 2016.
Commissioner Bud Selig, who also conducted a question-and-answer session with members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, said he receives weekly updates on time-of-game statistics, and has a few ideas in the works about speeding up games, though he's not ready to reveal them. The players, Clark said, are interested in considering those ideas, but cautioned that "there's always something happening, even when it doesn't look like it."
And both sides are enthusiastic about the success of baseball's new replay system, which Joe Torre, executive vice president of baseball operations, said has overturned calls on 47 percent of challenges. "It's worked beyond my expectations," Selig said.
Added Clark, "the cooperation between baseball, the players and umpires has led to the rough edges being smoothed out."
Torre also said he is talking to managers to clarify the new rule designed to avoid home-plate collisions, and said the rule won't be overturned. It may require educating umpires and players, however, to clear up confusion, he said.