NEW YORK (AP) — Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says this generation of players will determine its own unwritten rules on what emotion is acceptable to show on the field.
Hall of Famer Goose Gossage, a New York Yankees spring training instructor, criticized Toronto star Jose Bautista last month for his bat flip during last year's playoffs, telling ESPN he was "a disgrace to the game." The 64-year-old, who pitched in the major leagues from 1972-94, also told ESPN that Washington's Bryce Harper, the reigning NL MVP, "doesn't know squat about the game ... no respect for it."
"I think to the extent that you believe, and I actually do, that Bryce Harper is a spokesman for this generation, I suspect that you will see more exuberance from our players on the field," Manfred said Thursday during a meeting with the Associated Press Sports Editors.
"I think it's a good thing. I think that to the extent that you're trying to market to a younger audience, our younger players taking control of the definition of those unwritten rules is a lot better than some guy who's 67 years saying I did it that way and you do it the same way."
Manfred pointed out that players under the age of 25 have hit 30 percent of the home runs this year, up from 18 percent for the full 2010 season. Harper and Colorado rookie Trevor Story, both 23, are tied for the major league lead with eight.
"I really appreciate the words from Mr. Manfred," Harper said. "It's still a game where it's evolving into what it needs to be, and we're going to have a lot of fun hopefully in the next 20 years and push the envelope and hopefully make some things happen and so some things that are definitely different."
Bautista memorably flipped his bat after hitting a three-run homer that gave the Blue Jays the lead in the seventh inning in Game 5 of the AL Division Series against Texas.
"He's entitled to have his opinion. I don't happen to agree with him on this particular topic," Manfred said of Gossage. "Goose and his peers developed a set of unwritten understandings about what was acceptable on the field when he played the game, and I think the generation of players that are on the field today are going to do the same thing."
Manfred said players raised in the U.S. and those brought up in Latin America won't have a divide over what is acceptable emotion to show.
"The various groups that participate on the field are going to have to work through a middle ground," he said. "I do believe our players understand diversity and that even though there may be differences along these lines, they will find a way to a middle ground that's acceptable to the vast majority of those players."
On other topics:
LAST MONTH'S EXHIBITION IN CUBA
"Cuba gave us an opportunity to occupy the headlines at a point in the calendar that is extremely difficult for baseball 'cause it's right in the middle of the NCAA tournament," Manfred said. "It allowed us an opportunity to make progress on the issue that is of most immediate concern with respect to Cuba, and that is the ability to get players the right to come here, play Major League Baseball, go back to Cuba without having to risk their lives on a boat trip."
NEW SLIDE RULE
"I understand we had a couple of plays early on that I wish didn't have. ... The period of adjustment, whatever it is, to me is worth it if we get better player safety."
"We did not get off to a great pace-of-game start. I think a lot of that was the cold weather. ... The games have kind of picked up in the last week or so and it will be an area of continued focus throughout the year."
LOS ANGELES DODGERS CABLE DISPUTE
Many cable providers in the Los Angeles area still do not carry Time Warner Cable's SportsNet LA, which launched ahead of the 2014.
"I am really concerned about the idea that 60 percent of the people in LA can't watch the Dodgers with their current provider. I'd like to see more help, more self-help by Dodger fans on that issue. One way to get everybody's attention is to move to the provider, if you can, that will actually let you watch Dodger games."
Several states have declared fantasy sports illegal or limited activities of those companies. MLB announced last April that DraftKings was its official fantasy game.
"Our research was focused on the federal law which differentiated gambling based on whether or not something was a game of skill or a game of chance. ... We did not expect individual states to intercede on this issue."
Adding two teams to reach 32 will have to wait until the desires of Oakland and Tampa Bay for new ballparks are addressed. Manfred said adding another expansion team outside the mainland U.S. is possible in the long term. Montreal's mayor is seeking a replacement for the Expos, who left before the 2005 season to become the Washington Nationals.
AP freelance writer Christopher Stock in Miami contributed to this report.