CLEVELAND -- Commissioner Rob Manfred insists Major League Baseball did not make a deal with the Cleveland Indians about banning their contentious logo, Chief Wahoo.
The club agreed to remove the hotly debated, smiling caricature from its caps and jerseys starting this season, a decision that came after Cleveland was awarded the 2019 All-Star Game.
The timing was curious, but Manfred said there was no link between the two.
"The All-Star Game was awarded to Cleveland by Commissioner [Bud] Selig before I even had one conversation about Chief Wahoo,'' Manfred said. "You can write that as fact.''
Although the Wahoo logo, which has been around since the 1940s, is no longer on the field, the mascot is as popular as ever as fans continue to wear all kinds of merchandise bearing his image.
Two-city solution seen as way to preserve MLB in Tampa
Giving the Rays permission to explore playing part of their home schedule in Montreal is seen by baseball owners as "a way to preserve baseball in Tampa,'' according to Manfred.
Major League Baseball's executive council last month told Rays owner Stuart Sternberg he could explore the two-city possibility but did not specify a time frame. The Rays have been unsuccessful in gaining approval and financing in place for the new stadium they want in the Tampa Bay area.
"I think that it's just too early to make a judgment as to how likely it is to be successful,'' Manfred told the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday. "I think that the approval from the June owners meeting was reflective of the fact that Stu has worked really hard over a long period of time on the Tampa side and the St. Pete side to try to get something done from a stadium perspective. And then it was sold to the owners, or to the executive council, as a way to preserve baseball in Tampa.''
Tampa Bay has played at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg since the franchise took the field in 1998 and has a lease through 2027. The Rays are averaging about 15,500 fans per home game, 29th in the major leagues and ahead of only the Miami Marlins.
"To address what has been an ongoing issue, I think the owners are prepared to live with the idea that they would operate in two markets,'' Manfred said. "We have an issue in Tampa. It needs to get resolved somehow. If it means we give up a potential expansion site to solidify where we are, so be it."
Manfred said there had not been any discussion of a full movwe by the Rays. He also said MLB will remain at 30 teams for the foreseeable future.
"No way that we're biting into expansion until I get Tampa and Oakland resolved one way or the other,'' he said.
Extended protective netting ballpark-by-ballpark decision
Extending protective netting down foul lines is a ballpark-to-ballpark decision because of differing configurations, Manfred said.
Following a series of foul balls that injured fans, Major League Baseball mandated ahead of the 2018 season that netting extend to the far end of each dugout. Still, several fans have been hurt by foul balls this season.
"We recognized early in this process that it was very difficult to set an individual rule, one rule that applied to 30 different ballparks given their structural differences, and instead we have opted to work with the individual clubs over a period of time to extend netting,'' Manfred said Tuesday.
"We've made extensive progress on that and I believe that that progress will continue, and I think one of the reasons that we have had progress is that we have not put clubs in an impossible position by adopting a one size fits all rule.''
Manfred said changes during the midst of a season are hard to put in place.
"I don't think it's unreasonable to think that clubs are going to take a period of time [to] figure out what they can and can't do structurally before they announce what their plans are going to be,'' he said. "One injury is too many, but the fact of the matter is that we know because of the number of balls that hit into those nets, we had less incidents than we used to have. We are better off than we were, and I do believe we will continue to make progress on it.''
The Associated Press contributed to this report.