From the first days that Rob Manfred took over as commissioner, he talked about the need for speed -- a desire to improve pace of play, to keep games moving, to generally shorten the average time of games. In 2015, players seemed to work in concert with MLB in that effort, and there was improvement.
But last year, there was regression; the games slowed down and the average time of game spiked, especially after rosters expanded in September. In the postseason, a parade of visits to the mound by catchers generated frustration and slowed the pace even more.
Manfred and his team successfully negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement earlier this offseason in a rush of exchanges as the two sides closed on the Dec. 1 deadline. But there are no firm agreements, yet, on measures designed to speed up the game, which continues to be something that Manfred really wants.
Because of that nagging pace-of-play issue, Manfred leads the list of folks under pressure in Major League Baseball in 2017:
1. The commissioner
Here's the challenge for Manfred and his chief legal officer, Dan Halem: The union has veto power over any substantive changes in how the game is played. Following collective bargaining negotiations that are widely perceived to have tilted management's way, there is an opportunity for the Players Association -- there is leverage -- as Manfred pushes to get the game moved along. Maybe it's in the addition of a 26th player to each roster, or maybe it's something else, but as MLB prepares to horse trade for some kind of adjustment in the pace-of-play rules, union chief Tony Clark is in a position to extract something good.