SBD/August 11, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Selig Aims To Calm Waters With MLB Owners Set To Vote On New Commissioner

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Selig denied any rift between he and White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf
MLB owners on Thursday will vote on the three finalists -- MLB COO Rob Manfred, Red Sox Chair Tom Werner and MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan -- offered up by the committee searching for Commissioner Bud Selig's successor. Selig on Friday issued a statement saying the three candidates "are a reflection of the Committee's work alone, and I have not promoted individual candidates." Selig: "I will continue to encourage Clubs to voice their opinions within the confines of this process. Reports of personal animosity between (White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf) and me -- are unfounded and unproductive" (MLB). On Long Island, David Lennon wrote with "accusations surfacing of discord among the owners, and the potential for a boardroom slugfest on Thursday, Selig felt it necessary ... to calm the public waters, much as he has tried to do over the past two decades." Selig is "handing off a financially robust sport to his successor, but there are plenty of obstacles to navigate for the next person in charge." The "always-evolving PED landscape, with newer and more complex substances to combat" such as the stadium situations in Oakland and Tampa Bay and the "looming negotiations" for the next CBA, which expires in '16 (NEWSDAY, 8/10).

NOTHING PERSONAL: In N.Y., Bill Madden noted Selig’s "alleged closest friends in the owners’ fraternity" -- Reinsdorf, Werner, Blue Jays President & CEO Paul Beeston and Red Sox Owner John Henry and President & CEO Larry Lucchino -- have "joined forces to block" Manfred's path to the commissioner's office. They all supposedly believe Manfred is "not tough enough with the players union." But Myers wrote that is "laughable when you consider Manfred was able to finally get the players on board with drug testing after years of their leaders fighting fiercely against it." Reinsdorf is a "smart guy," but he ought to be "embarrassed backing a lightweight sop like Werner." Sources said that the "anti-Manfred forces have been trying to convince owners that voting for Werner is voting for one of their own." And that if elected, it would "actually be a ticket, with Werner retaining Brosnan (for business) and bringing in Beeston (for labor relations) as his top two deputies" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/10). ESPN’s Israel Gutierrez asked while Manfred has "helped avoid work stoppages, has the sport really improved in terms of popularity over the last 20 years?" Gutierrez: "Has there not been a mess made of the PED situation in baseball? Would it be entirely out of the question to say, ‘It’s better off if we go with a fresh voice, a fresh perspective in terms of baseball?’ I’m not saying that’s necessarily true, I’m just saying if that is someone's intention, would it be the worst thing?” ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN2, 8/10).

JUST BUSINESS: Henry said there is "no doubt" Werner would be a great commissioner, as he is "one of the most popular owners because he’s very passionate about baseball, has a sense of duty." Henry: "We would hate to lose him here. Not only would he have to sell his interest in the Red Sox, but he would be moving back to New York. It would be a terrible loss, personally and professionally. So I have very mixed feelings on the subject." In Boston, Michael Silverman wrote Henry "certainly sounds as though he is one of the owners who is leaning toward" Werner or Brosnan. Henry: "We need a businessman who understands more than the inherent problems of owners and of labor. That person must excel in understanding media, entertainment, competition and business as well as the sport. The game won’t automatically grow and it could well be disrupted by standing still. ... There is too much waiting in baseball for 21st century television viewers." He added, "MLB needs to confront the realities of 21st century media. We need the game on phones and tablets. We need to reduce the amount of waiting between pitches. The NFL has done a tremendous job of adapting their games and schedules for television. Baseball in 2014 needs, in addition to a commissioner, a real CEO who is intently focused on forcing the sport to compete in a world that more and more belongs to those who can create, adapt, build and execute in a transformed entertainment world" (BOSTON HERALD, 8/10). ESPN's Howard Bryant said, "Baseball's biggest problem is they have to get younger. The sport has to get younger. They are losing the biggest demographic that the NBA and the NFL has. If they don't address that, it doesn't make a difference who is commissioner” ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN2, 8/10).

SETTLE ALL FAMILY BUSINESS: ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote if Thursday's vote is "closer to 23-7 than 30-0, that will be the first sign of the significant challenges that face Selig's successor, who will almost certainly be" Manfred. Selig probably "wouldn't have allowed a vote to happen if Manfred didn't have enough votes." The "to-do list seems to grow by the day" and four issues that "should be on the front burner" are pace of play, the future of the Rays and A's, taking instant replay to the next level and altering the risk-reward equation for PEDs (ESPN.com, 8/8). In Chicago, Paul Sullivan wrote why anyone would "want the headache in the first place is another question." Sullivan: "Chasing down steroid cheaters, arbitrating territorial feuds between owners and keeping Pete Rose out of the game is a thankless job. Just ask Selig." Despite the "success he has enjoyed in growing the game, he isn't exactly revered by fans or given much credit for things such as interleague play, expansion or revenue sharing." Selig's reign was "long and eventful, but in the end, he still will be remembered as the guy who once canceled the World Series" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/10). In San Diego, Matt Calkins wrote under the header, "Commissioner Tom Werner? Please, No" (UTSANDIEGO.com, 8/10).
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