(Baltimore, MD) Today, Wednesday August 13, 2014 the 30 Major League Baseball owners are meeting in Baltimore to interview Rob Manfred, Tim Brosnan, and Tom Werner, with one of the three men being named the new commissioner of baseball replacing outgoing commissioner Alan “Bud” Selig.
Sometime on Thursday here in Charm City the 30 Major League Baseball owners will vote on who will take over for Selig. A man who has served in that post for 22 years and who will be retiring in January of 2015 when his present contract expires.
But before the “White Smoke,” is seen indicating that the owners have chosen a new commissioner there could be some very interesting developments. But first a little history on how we got here.
Back in May St. Louis Cardinals CEO, Bill DeWitt Jr. was named by Selig as the chairman of the committee to find his successor. Also on the committee was Chicago White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf along with Colorado chairman Dick Monfort, Philadelphia president Dave Montgomery, Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno, Pittsburgh chairman Bob Nutting and Minnesota chief executive officer Jim Pohlad.
The committee came up with the three aforementioned candidates for the job, Manfred, Brosnan, and Werner. On Thursday when the owners vote it will take 23 out of 30 votes to become the new MLB Commissioner.
One would expect that the likely succor to Selig would be one of his trusted lieutenants, who in this case would be Manfred, MLB’s chief operating officer. A man who has helped Selig helped keep baseball out of conflict with the Major League Baseball Players Union and been running point on the drug issues that faced baseball mainly the Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED’s).
The other MLB executive on the ballot is Brosnan, baseball’s executive vice president for business, whose work has produced increasingly lucrative television contracts and sponsorship deals. He like Manfred, has been loyal to Selig and he is well respected throughout baseball as a great business and marketing mind.
However, this after all is Major League Baseball and what seems like the most likely thing to do is not always the path the owners take. So, expect just about anything to happen and there will be plenty of back room arm twisting over the next 24 hours.
The key here is that commissioner Selig has not openly promoted any candidates to succeed him. That has opened the door for Tom Werner, chairman of the Red Sox, to insert himself into the race to become the next commissioner of baseball.
Like Selig who owned the Milwaukee Brewers, Werner is an owner. He is also a very successful television executive who along with his partner John Henry has made the Boston Red Sox one of sports most profitable franchises. The Red Sox rank third behind only the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers with an estimated worth of $1,5 billion.
But here is where things are getting interesting and that is just like an old style political convention baseball owners are torn over picking an executive vs. replacing Selig with another owner. While no one doubts the ability of either Manfred or Brosman to replace Selig, there are still some owners who like the idea of one their own sitting in the commissioner’s chair. By the way if they are deadlocked and can’t agree that one of the three candidates on the ballot should be the next commissioner then there might be a compromise candidate. If that is the case look for either Mark Attanasio of the Milwaukee Brewers or Stuart Sternberg of the Tampa Bay Rays, both of whom met with the search committee that nominated Manfred, Werner and Brosnan.
What most owners that I have spoken to hope that the majority will favor Manfred, baseball’s No. 2 executive and the perceived favorite to take over for Selig Those owners favor the smooth transition that occurred earlier this year in the NBA when, after a long apprenticeship, Adam Silver took over for David Stern who called it quits after his 30-year run as commissioner. Silver had been the heir apparent for so long that it was expected that he would replace Stern.
Manfred has handled labor relations and baseball’s drug-testing program for Selig, two areas of critical importance to the sport.
The key however thing that could keep Manfred out of the job is that Werner really wants the job. The former television producer whose time as a Red Sox owner has included three World Series championships has not been shy about his desire to replace Selig.
Werner’s politicking has paid off as two of baseballs most powerful and respected owners are openly supporting him. Reinsdorf, of the Chicago White Sox, and Arte Moreno, of the Los Angeles Angels clearly feel that staying with a former owner remains the way to go.
Both Reinsdorf and Moreno are still angry at Manfred for what they perceive to have been too many concessions given to the players union. They want the next commissioner to be more confrontational. John Henry, the principal owner of the Red Sox, feels that Werner’s background in entertainment qualifies him more than Manfred to broaden baseball’s fan base.
If elected Werner would have to do as Selig did when he replaced Fay Vincent as commissioner in 1992. Selig put his ownership of the team into a trust with his daughter Wendy Selig-Prieb in charge. The move was done to remove any technical conflicts of interest, though it was widely presumed he maintained some hand in team operations.
Although the team has been sold to Los Angeles investor Mark Attanasio, questions remain regarding Selig’s past involvement. Selig’s defenders point to the poor management of the team after Selig-Prieb took control as proof that Selig was not working behind the scenes.
Every owner is looking at what happens come Thursday when the first vote is taken. If Werner can get eight votes, then he can block Manfred and make things interesting. That could force Brosnan to remind the owners that he was the man who brought them the $12.4 billion television rights deals with ESPN, Fox and Turner Sports. His marketing expertise has been a big reason that MLB properties and MLB Advanced media are so successful.
If baseball history is any indication of what might happen on Thursday there might be a surprise or two ahead. Werner might be able to damage Manfred but not have enough votes to win. Brosnan could benefit from the infighting but only if either Werner or Manfred backs him.
Before you say “Well this baseball what do you expect.”
Allow me to give you a history lesion, let’s go back to the year 1960. The National Football League was looking for a new commissioner. It took the owners over 20 different ballots over two days to elect Pete Rozelle who was a former advertising executive who was serving as the Los Angeles Rams general manager at the time.
The interesting thing was that Rozelle’s name did not get on the ballot until after seven votes were taken. Then in 1989 when Rozelle decided to retire the only name that was presented to the NFL owners was Jim Finks, who at the time was the president of the New Orleans Saints. But on 12th ballot the league named their in house attorney and Rozelle right hand man Paul Tagliabue.
After 17 years in charge of the NFL Tagliabue decided to retire in 2006, the transition again, was not an easy one. His replacement Roger Goodell was elected on the fifth ballot on a hot afternoon in August of 2006.
So, all eyes will be on Baltimore as the vote for the next commissioner of baseball will no doubt be very interesting. We will have the results as they happen live from Baltimore on Sports Talk Florida.