MLB's Manfred: Worried by bloated contracts, not A-Rod

Rob Manfred speaks at a press conference after being elected by team owners to be the next commissioner of Major League Baseball.
H.Darr Beiser | USA TODAY Sports | Reuters
Rob Manfred speaks at a press conference after being elected by team owners to be the next commissioner of Major League Baseball.

In his first Major League Baseball All-Star game as commissioner, Rob Manfred says he is encouraged by the efforts to speed up the game of baseball, an initiative he has pushed since succeeding Bud Selig.

"We are down about 9 minutes, which would be the largest decrease since 1965," Manfred, who is baseball's tenth commissioner, told CNBC's Fast Money.

In a time of waning attention spans and in effort to keep the game moving, MLB has instituted fines for players that break the new rules designed to speed up the game.

"We've had great cooperation from our players on the field. That's the key to moving the game along," Manfred said.

Some have said the faster pace of play has hurt veteran players at the expense of younger players. Twenty-six first-time All Stars made the team this year, with big names like Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz missing out.

Manfred said he was "neutral" on whether A-Rod should have made the team, despite his productive season so far: "The fans didn't pick him and the managers decided they had other qualified players."

In addition to pace of play, Manfred has also been an advocate for growing the game through youth participation. On Monday, MLB announced $30 million towards youth programs, a small fraction of the league's $9 billion in revenue last year.

In effort to draw in a new, younger demographic, Manfred is trying to get fans hooked on baseball early on. Last year's attendance was 74 million, which was the seventh-best attendance in history for the league, but an aging fan-base has has meant baseball must turn its focus on a younger generation.

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"It's important for us to use our players. They are a great asset to encourage youth participation in the game," he said, adding: "We need parents to take kids to the ballpark, because that's where they get hooked."

One area where he won't be so aggressive in reaching young fans is through a direct-to-consumer app for watching games without needing a cable subscription.

"We have been at the forefront of over the top for over a decade," said Manfred. "Our delivery with consumers will continue to evolve as the cable environment continues to evolve."

With collective bargaining one year away, the Commissioner says one issue he's looking at is the rise of lengthy player contracts, with some, including those of Albert Pujuols and Robinson Cano, even lasting a decade. Manfred says these contracts "are a huge risk economically" and create disparity among teams.

"Because we have teams in vastly different markets, some teams can afford to do 10 years and other teams can't. That's my biggest problem."