The return of the MLB winter meetings meant the opportunity to speak to all 30 managers in the same room for the first time since 2019.
Not wanting to let an opportunity like that slip by, we asked the skippers for their take on baseball’s new rules debuting next season — the pitch clock, the shift ban and more — the new playoff structure that debuted in 2022, their toughest opponents … and each other.
Here is a sampling of their answers.
MLB’s new rules: Good, bad … indifferent?
David Bell, Cincinnati Reds: [I’m] really excited about them. … It’s going to be a faster game. All of them are going to affect the game differently.
The big one for me that I’ve been thinking a lot about is just the two disengagements and the throw-over restrictions, that’s really going to change the game. From a stolen base standpoint, speed.
But even the no shifting is going to lead to more hits. Contact is going to be more important. Baserunning in general is just going to be more of a priority. I think a lot of us enjoy that style of play.
Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays: Pitch clock, I’m thrilled about. Speed the game up. They get too long. If we’re playing the Red Sox or playing the Yankees, they turn into four-hour ballgames. I’m not really sure how it impacts our pitchers. They’ll figure it out.
Scott Servais, Seattle Mariners: It’s going to create more action. It’s going to create more offense, which is what our game needs. We’re in the entertainment business. You need action. That’s what fans want to see.
You can’t just keep playing the same game that they played in the 1940s and 1950s. It evolves. We have to evolve with it. The players will adjust. The pitch clock, they’ll adjust. It really hasn’t been an issue at the minor league level. Once they understand the rule change and how it works, guys are really good at adjusting.
Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota Twins: We’re going to have to manage and coach in some ways we hadn’t had to think about until this point. But I do think the rule changes will help our game. I actually do overall think this is going to be the case.
We work through the details. Our players, they’ll adapt, they adapt to everything.
A.J. Hinch, Detroit Tigers: I would say that the clock is going to be a bigger adjustment than where we play [as a result of the shift ban]. Where we play is going to be very, very standard, and guys will get used to that very quickly. How fast it’s going to feel for pitchers and hitters that are egregiously over the time limit is going to be a big adjustment.
I’m more concerned with the hitting side than I am the pitching side. I think the pitching side will make an adjustment relatively quickly. The young pitchers, certainly in our camp, are going to have had it before. … Some bullpen guys will have to get a little quicker. The hitters are going to probably bark the loudest.
Dusty Baker, Houston Astros: I’m not even thinking about them. I had plenty of time thinking about it. I’m thinking about now, if I can get in some duck hunting and some fishing, you know what I mean? I’m serious.
Which opposing hitter do you least want to face with the game on the line?
Derek Shelton, Pittsburgh Pirates: Paul Goldschmidt. Without a doubt. Hands down. I may be a little biased, just because of the fact that we see him every day, but his ability to grind out at-bats, his ability to foul off pitches, his ability to use the whole field is something that really stands out.
Brian Snitker, Atlanta Braves: I always hate facing Juan Soto, game on the line or not. He’s just such a hitter, lets the ball get so deep, is so strong. He’s just very dangerous and a very confident kid.
Which pitcher — not on your squad — would you most want to hand the ball to with your season on the line?
Black: Justin Verlander. Just watching him pitch, the stuff, and how he goes through a game, I’d pick him. … Him being 39 answers so many questions about how good he is. To be this good, at this age, it tells you about his work ethic, his preparation, his competitiveness. Those things make a difference when you talk about big-game pitchers. People who are around me a lot know I talk a lot about passing the test of time. And this guy, in the present era, has done that as well as anybody.
Snitker: Probably the guy the Rangers just signed, Jacob deGrom. One of my favorites. Everything, it’s the competitiveness. His personality, especially as I’ve gotten to know him. He’s as good as there is in the game.
Who — besides you — is the best manager in baseball?
Melvin: Craig Counsell. I’ve watched him evolve from a player to front-office personnel to the manager I always knew he would be.
Black: Terry Francona. From managing against him, watching his games, watching him in the playoffs, I think he has great feel as the game moves on. I think he has great feel for his players. That’s something that stands out. And I’ve known him for a long time. His instincts are outstanding, and I think he combines his head and his gut in the right way.
Martinez: Dusty Baker. I love him. I loved playing for him, and he’s a good man. So glad he won the World Series.
Shelton: Kevin Cash. I’m biased, I worked with Kevin and was on his staff, but just the way he deals with players, the information and the way he breaks it down, I definitely think he’s the best manager in baseball.
Thomson: Because of the experience and knowledge, being through player development as long as he has, Buck Showalter.
Schneider: Bruce Bochy, who just got back in. I remember admiring him as he did his thing in San Francisco.
What did you think about this past season’s expanded playoffs?
Bruce Bochy, Texas Rangers: I think you first look at it when they expand it. You always go, oh man, we’re going to flood it out. But it was good for baseball. It was.
You look at how it went, and I know there’s some questions going, well, some teams are sitting, it affected them. But the best team won. The best team were the world champions. And I think the interest it created, it’s good for the game. It’s good for a lot of fans throughout our country. And a lot of teams that were battling at the end to get there. So, I’m good with it.
Gabe Kapler, San Francisco Giants: I think [it’s] really good for baseball. Just more opportunity for more fans to be invested for longer during the season is just really good for all of us.
I think there were some well-documented challenges, ones that I don’t necessarily need to go over and repeat, but for the most part, I think baseball really benefited from the playoff format from last year.
Snitker: I loved it. Thought it was great for the game. I think it worked. The whole format really worked and fans had great series. It was fun, just a great thing for the fans.
New 2023 rules, opposing players, more