The Latest: Manfred denies Wahoo conspiracy for All-Star bid

FILE - In this Jan. 29, 2018, file photo, foam images of the Cleveland Indians baseball team mascot Chief Wahoo are displayed for sale at the Indians' team shop in Cleveland. While Major League Baseball and the Indians mutually agreed in 2018 to completely remove him from the team’s jerseys and caps as well as banners and signage in the ballpark starting this season, Chief Wahoo appears to be as visible as ever.

CLEVELAND (AP) — 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 Wahoo, 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.

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1:55 p.m.

The weather forecast is calling for clear skies and temperatures in the upper 70s at Progressive Field. A perfect night for the All-Star Game — players and fans hope it's not perfect for midges, too.

Midges are tiny, flying insects that live around Lake Erie and swarm when it's warm. They don't bite, but they're pesky. They made their mark on baseball during the 2007 AL Division Series when bunches of the bugs descended on the neck of Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain during Game 2 against Cleveland on a humid October night.

The midges miffed Chamberlain, and the rattled reliever threw two wild pitches in the eighth inning that let the Indians score the tying run. Cleveland won in 11 innings, and won the series in four games.

Just in case anyone forgot, there's a small sticker that serves as a reminder in the windows of the hotel where many Major League Baseball officials and media members are staying this week, a few blocks from the lake.

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12:30 p.m.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says "there is no evidence from the scientists that the ball is harder" but says "the drag of the baseball is less."

He says the sport is trying to find out why the drag is less but had not been given answers by scientists.

"Pitchers have raised issues particularly about the tackiness and seams on the baseball and we do believe those could be issues," Manfred tells the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Manfred says "baseball has done nothing, given no direction for an alteration in the baseball."

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12:15 p.m.

In the middle of a Major League Baseball season that has seen home runs being hit at a record pace, union head Tony Clark says, "I believe that the ball suddenly changed and I don't know why."

Batters have hit 3,691 homers in 1,345 games, on pace to hit 6,669 over the full season. That would be 19% above last year's 5,558 and 9% over the record 6,105 hit in 2017.

AL All-Star starter Justin Verlander was been among the players most vocal in claiming the ball has changed. Clark tells the Baseball Writers' Association of America the union has received data but no explanations.

Clark and Verlander have questioned whether Major League Baseball has more input into the ball since Rawlings Sporting Goods Co. Inc., which manufactures the ball, was purchased last year by Seidler Equity Partners. Peter Seidler, the San Diego Padres general partner, has chief oversight of all activities of Seidler Equity Partners.

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11:45 a.m.

The head of the baseball players' association has detailed the union's goals during collective bargaining, listing the restoration of a "competitive environment" and "meaningful free agency" as aims.

Baseball's labor contracts runs until December 2021, but the sides committed last winter to early talks. Thus far, they met once to discuss the scheduling of future meetings.

Union head Tony Clark says his members want to have "getting players something closer to their value as they are producing it," a reference to the structure that has players getting close to the minimum until they have nearly three years of major league service time, when they become eligible for salary arbitration.

He also says the union wants the "best players on the field at all times," a reference to accusations that clubs hold top prospects in the minor leagues to delay their eligibility for salary arbitration and free agency, which requires six years of service.

Clark also has said rebuilding teams that are noncompetitive hurt the industry.

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