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Commissioner: MLB Considers Guidelines For Racist Taunts

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Days after a fan at Fenway Park directed racial slurs at Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said he is determined to “provide our players with an environment where they feel comfortable in every major league stadium that they play.”

Manfred spoke Friday before the Minnesota Twins hosted the Boston Red Sox, who were at the center of the controversy this week after Jones, who is black, heard the taunts . Another fan was removed and banned for life from Fenway Park the next day for making a racist remark, and other black players throughout the big leagues said it is a common occurrence to be subjected to such behavior by fans.

Manfred said MLB is surveying all 30 teams to see how they handle such situations “as a prelude to giving consideration to some more industry wide guidelines in this area.”

“We want to make sure that we know exactly what the clubs are doing before we start recommending changes,” Manfred said. “We’re in the process of gathering information right now.”

Manfred did not comment on specific changes or guidelines being considered, but said more would be forthcoming after officials get the information from the teams.

The series between the Red Sox and Orioles had plenty of tension between the two teams, and Manfred tried to cool a feud that extended back to April 21 when Boston’s Dustin Pedroia was injured in a slide by Baltimore star Manny Machado.

Pitchers for both teams took retaliatory measures against opposing hitters, buzzing hitters with pitches and hitting them. Orioles starter Kevin Gausman was ejected Wednesday after hitting Boston’s Xander Bogaerts on a hip just a few hours after Manfred and MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre held a conference call with representatives from both teams and told them “enough is enough.”

Manfred said it was the first time he had personally gotten involved in such a situation, saying one of the pitches “was of grave concern to us.”

“I felt it was different than a normal ‘I hit your guy, you hit my guy,'” he said. “As a matter of fact, it had persisted so long it was hard to trace back who had hit who when, whose turn it was.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell said on Friday that having the commissioner get involved resonated with both teams, and they went through the series finale on Thursday without incident.

“I think any time a mandate comes from the leader of our industry, it sends a strong and clear message to whatever the issue might at hand and I think it was very effective,” Farrell said. “He commented that it was the first time he had been involved at this level or this type of interaction, so I think it helped.”

Manfred said some of the animosity may have been generated because the Red Sox and Orioles met seven times in the last two weeks. He said he planned to have communications with union head Tony Clark to see if the rules put in place to curb such confrontations need to be revisited.

“It’s a concern of ours because it’s a safety issue,” Manfred said. “We think about things we’ve done in recent years, catchers, second base sliding rules, safety rules, obviously this is a similar player safety issue.”

On other subjects:

—Manfred said he is hopeful to play a regular season game in Mexico in the near future and the idea of eventually having a team in Mexico “is very appealing to me.”

“It would open up an opportunity not only in Mexico but with the Mexican-Americans in the United States,” he said. “It’s something we are focused on and very interested in.”

—Manfred declined to confirm a report by USA Today that Dave Stewart had joined a group bidding for the Miami Marlins. But he did say MLB will be considering the financial means the competing groups have to spend on payroll. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has come under scrutiny for small payrolls in recent seasons before increasing spending this year.

“Our focus with respect to purchasing groups will be to make sure they have a financial structure that will allow them to put a competitive product on the field that’s our overriding goal in terms of working through this sale process,” he said.

—Manfred called the need for new ballparks in Oakland and Tampa Bay “acute.” While the NFL has seen the Chargers and Rams move to the Los Angeles area, and the Raiders prepare to move to Las Vegas, Manfred said he doesn’t want to see similar upheaval in baseball.

“My strong preference consistent with baseball’s long tradition is to keep our franchises in the markets where they currently play,” he said.

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(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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