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MLB owners Thursday night in Baltimore elected Rob Manfred as the league's 10th commissioner after an all-day meeting that required a half-dozen votes to a break an impasse. Following rival finalist and MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan backing out of the race just prior to voting, Manfred prevailed over Red Sox Chair Tom Werner after a pro-Werner voting block led by White Sox Owner Jerry Reinsdorf finally relented. The final ballot was a symbolic 30-0 vote for Manfred, giving him a clear mandate to boost interest in a healthy sport that is still fighting to build relevancy in a fast-changing media and entertainment landscape. “I am tremendously honored by the confidence that the owners showed in me. I have very big shoes to fill,” Manfred said in reference to retiring Commissioner Bud Selig. Manfred will formally take over on Jan. 25 upon the expiration of Selig’s current contract. During much of Thursday, Manfred’s support vacillated between 20-22 votes, just short of the required 23 needed for election. Among the key teams helping breaking the impasse were believed to be the Brewers, Rays and Nationals. Reinsdorf in a statement praised the open debate that led to Manfred’s election, even as he again made little efforts to hide his feelings. “While Rob may not have been my initial choice for commissioner, the conclusion of a very good process was to name Rob as the person best positioned to help baseball endure and grown even stronger for the next generation of fans,” Reinsdorf said.
GETTING ON THE SAME PAGE: After a late afternoon recess, Selig could be seen having a private conversation with Reinsdorf. Less than an hour later, Manfred had finally prevailed in securing election, providing a major political victory for Selig and his favored candidate. “There were differences of opinion, but in the end, we came together,” Selig said. “There is no doubt in my mind Rob has the temperament, the training, the experience.” To that end, the election of Manfred is widely seen as a choice favoring a continuity of the Selig era that has seen record revenue, attendance, stadium development and franchise values. Yankees President Randy Levine said, “There will never be a commissioner like (Selig). He’s revolutionized the game. I think Rob is going to try to continue and expand on it.” Manfred is expected to receive a three-year contract, as per the minimum term for commissioner in the MLB constitution.
BROSNAN EXPLAINS WITHDRAWAL: Brosnan late Thursday said he withdrew his candidacy when it became clear he had only the Reds among his supporters. “I care too much about the game and really wanted the process to be as efficient as it could be,” he said. Both he and Werner acknowledged they were disappointed in not prevailing themselves, but each said they looked forward to rallying behind Manfred. “The last two days have been productive because we’ve been able to share a number of ideas about the game and how to improve it and modernize it,” said Werner, who will remain with the Red Sox. “I think Rob agrees with many of the ideas that I espoused, and I am very confident that we are going to see some things, such as improved pace of play.” Added Brosnan, whose future now appears more uncertain, “We’ve had a great run under Commissioner Selig, and I look forward to a continued great run under Commissioner Manfred. Of course I’m disappointed (about not getting job). I wouldn’t have gone through this if I didn’t think I could do it. But we’re in the middle of a great run as an industry, and I look forward to that continuing.”
SUPPORT FOR MANFRED: The Manfred election, not surprisingly, generated a positive reaction from the MLBPA, with which Manfred has developed a productive relationship. “Personally, I have known Rob for more than 15 years, and I’m confident that his vast experience in all aspects of the sport will serve his commissionership well,” said MLBPA Exec Dir Tony Clark. ESPN President John Skipper made a similar statement, saying “I am confident he will be an outstanding commissioner and I look forward to working with Rob to build upon Commissioner Selig’s outstanding legacy.”
MLB "averted an embarrassing impasse Thursday night" when league COO Rob Manfred was elected over Red Sox Chair Tom Werner to replace Commissioner Bud Selig, according to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Manfred "was stuck on 22 votes for hours ... and at about 6 p.m. ET, earned the full support." Manfred's biggest competition "was overcoming a contingent" led by White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf and Angels Owner Arte Moreno, who supported Werner. When it was "clear it was Manfred or an impasse that could lead to chaos, the owners opted for stability," with the Brewers, Rays and Nationals eventually switching to Manfred (USA TODAY, 8/15). In N.Y., Ken Davidoff cites a source as saying that the first vote "went 20-10 in Manfred’s favor ... and when the next vote went 21-9, that took Werner off the ballot, as per the parameters that a candidate needed at least one-third of the ballot to stay alive." At that juncture, the vote "turned into a yes or no on Manfred." That "underlined the reality" that the Reinsdorf group "stood as much anti-Manfred as pro-Werner." Manfred "got 22 yeses in his first-go-round, then down to 20, then back up to 22," with the no votes cast by the D-Backs, Red Sox, White Sox, Reds, Angels, A's, Blue Jays and Nationals. The Brewers and Rays "had voted against Manfred earlier in the process" before changing their votes. The Nationals "flipped on the sixth ballot, giving Manfred the 23 votes he needed and avoiding a stalemate the current commissioner clearly did not want." Selig then "ordered a symbolic seventh vote in which the teams supported Manfred unanimously" (N.Y. POST, 8/15). Also in N.Y., Madden, Thompson, O'Keeffe & Vinton cite an owner as saying that the election "took as long as it did because Werner refused to withdraw even after he failed to receive the requisite 10 votes on the first ballot" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/15).
ELECTORAL INSIGHT: FOXSPORTS.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported particularly after Manfred "moved to within one vote of the required 23, Selig helped the sport avoid what would have been a disastrous stalemate." Not long before the ballot that "ultimately established Manfred as the victor, Selig stood outside the meeting room" talking with Cardinals Chair & CEO Bill DeWitt -- who led the succession committee -- and Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino. Selig also talked with Reinsdorf. Once Werner’s supporters "knew they couldn’t block Manfred, they accepted the outcome with dignity, in a manner that should minimize rancor as the sport moves forward" (FOXSPORTS.com, 8/15). On Long Island, David Lennon writes the anti-Manfred faction "ultimately caved, but they had made their point" (NEWSDAY, 8/15). Werner said that he "did not make any deals during the voting process that enabled Manfred to get the necessary 23rd vote." Werner: "It’s not that there was any arrangement made, but I think that we also agree on the constructive ideas" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/15). CBSSPORTS.com's Jon Heyman cited owners as saying that the candidates "spoke of several of the same objectives ... the slow pace of game was one hot topic -- but Manfred's background likely ultimately won the day." He "had the support of committee chair DeWitt, the Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Giants and also several small-market teams, making it seem a bit like a fait accompli he'd be the guy" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/14).
WERNER'S PLATFORM: THE WALL STREET JOURNAL's Daniel Barbarisi notes Werner "based his candidacy on modernizing the game and broadening its appeal, focusing on speeding up play, bringing in younger fans, and expanding baseball's international footprint." He said, "Of course I'm slightly disappointed, but I think it was a very healthy couple of days, and I was able to share my thoughts about how to move forward in a bunch of areas." Reinsdorf said, "There were a lot of Tom Werner fans. It was a tough call." Barbarisi noted the election of Manfred, "Selig's choice, validates Selig's tenure as a success in the eyes of MLB's owners" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/15). Red Sox Owner John Henry said, "There was a lot of support for Tom. One third of the industry thought he'd be a great candidate. In the end, we came together. I think (Manfred) will be a great commissioner. I'm told (Werner) wowed the search committee with his presentation. I'd be surprised if Rob didn't incorporate some of his ideas" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/14). In N.Y., Bill Madden reports Blue Jays President & CEO Paul Beeston, Reinsdorf’s "closest ally, was floated to the owners as a possible replacement for Manfred as the chief labor negotiator if Werner was elected and had every reason to want the vote dragged out to the next owners meeting in November where anything could happen" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/15).
ISSUES AROSE DURING THE PROCESS: In N.Y., Michael Schmidt wrote about Wednesday's candidate presentations under the header, "Inside The Ballroom: Scenes From Baseball's Election Battle." It was "not surprising that there were some contentious moments as the three candidates spoke." Reinsdorf "went on the attack during Manfred's presentation" and the candidates reportedly submitted letters of recommendation for the position. Werner "wanted to include such letters as part of his presentation" and he presented notes from former Fox Senior Exec VP David Hill and former NBC Sports Group Chair Dick Ebersol. MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan, who was a candidate for the position but withdrew prior to Thursday's vote, "had a letter from ESPN, and Manfred had his" from MLBAM President & CEO Bob Bowman and MLB Network President & CEO Tony Petitti. Werner during his turn to speak "was verbally confronted" by DeWitt, who "asked Werner pointedly where he stood on revenue sharing." Brosnan "did not use notes or a PowerPoint presentation" during his address and "spoke of his passion for baseball." Two owners who said that they "were not supporting Brosnan said that they were impressed by his speech." Several owners said that Selig "was in the room for all three presentations and that made things a bit awkward." In one of the "sharper criticisms, several of the candidates said that there needed to be more transparency about how deals are made between the commissioner and teams." An owner: "Everyone was trying to be respectful of Bud, but it was awkward" (NYTIMES.com, 8/14). The N.Y. DAILY NEWS' Madden, Thompson, O'Keeffe & Vinton report Manfred's two letters of recommendation "led Reinsdorf to suggest that Manfred had created a conflict of interest, since Manfred could be responsible for how much Bowman and Petitti are paid." Manfred "countered that Petitti and Bowman have long-term contracts with the league and that their compensation is determined by committee, and so they had nothing to gain by supporting him." A second confrontation "arose Thursday when the Manfred opposition proposed that the members of the executive council (two of whom are Reinsdorf and ... Henry) have their terms extended." The owners "overwhelmingly rejected that proposal" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/15).
BRIDGING THE AISLE: CSNBAYAREA.com's Ray Ratto wrote there is "a split in the ownership that Manfred will have to spend his time repairing." But he "can’t get any of it done without developing a coterie of owners around him who will be what Jerry Reinsdorf was for Selig over all but the last few years of their relationship." Manfred's first duty "will be to paper over the divisions in the ownership" before the next CBA negotiations (CSNBAYAREA.com, 8/14). ESPN.com's Christina Kahrl wrote Manfred "is seen as the aspiring guardian of Selig's legacy, the palace candidate who's supposed to perpetuate Selig's commitments." Those "lining up behind Werner ... made for an odd assemblage." The Werner candidacy "wasn't just some juvenile stunt, and it reflects a bigger problem -- not just with the 30 owners, but in the candidates and what they reflect." This "might be best boiled down to the 'vision' thing" (ESPN.com, 8/14).
REACTION FROM MLB EXECS: Orioles Owner Peter Angelos said Manfred "has a way of getting things accomplished and so there are great expectations." Angelos: "Is he perfect? No. No one's perfect. But I think he'll do a sterling job and I think he'll follow successfully in the path of the retiring commissioner" (NEWSDAY, 8/15). More Angelos: "There was a long delay before the 23rd vote came in, but it did come in, and it was expected it would come in" (Baltimore SUN, 8/15). Yankees President Randy Levine: "There’ll never be a commissioner like (Selig). He’s revolutionized the game, and I think Rob is going to try and continue and expand that" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/15). Astros Owner Jim Crane: "I’m not saying what camp I was in, but the guy is commissioner by unanimous vote, let’s put it that way. I wasn’t a bit upset with the selection. All three of the guys were qualified, they just have different qualifications. All the guys were good. Closed ballots, so nobody knew who was voting for who" (CHRON.com, 8/14).
MLB owners on Thursday voted league COO Rob Manfred to succeed Bud Selig as commissioner, and it is "unlikely that there will be much noticeable difference between the Selig and Manfred administrations," according to Cliff Corcoran of SI.com. In the short term, Manfred will "be in many ways a continuation" of Selig. Over the last 20 years, Manfred has "been a key figure in two major areas that will be significant parts of Selig’s legacy: labor relations and drug testing." Given the "fluidity of this transition it was interesting to hear" Cardinals Chair & CEO Bill DeWitt Jr., who headed the succession committee, "praise Manfred for 'his ability to reach consensus,' a trait often associated with Selig" (SI.com, 8/14). MLB.com's Phil Rogers wrote under the header, "No Better Man To Succeed Selig Than Manfred." Manfred will "be his own man in office, for sure, but may find it impossible to escape the internal wiring implanted within him by daily conversations with Selig" (MLB.com, 8/14). YAHOO SPORTS' Tim Brown wrote Manfred was "widely viewed as the status quo candidate" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/14). In Milwaukee, Tom Haudricourt writes Manfred's rise to commissioner is "similar to how NFL commissioner Roger Goodell succeeded Paul Tagliabue in 2006 after spending five years as second-in-command, and how Adam Silver was groomed to take over for David Stern after his 30-year NBA reign" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 8/15).
SELIG'S LASTING LEGACY: ESPN's T.J. Quinn said the election of Manfred was a "major victory for Bud Selig and his legacy." Selig "needed this to sort of stamp his tenure as his own, that he wasn't anybody's puppet." ESPN's Tim Kurkjian said the owners voted in Manfred because "they know the game is in good shape and they know that Rob Manfred is going to continue Bid Selig's work. That is modernizing the game, replay, growing the game with younger people to try to watch, globalizing it and all that, and improving the pace of the game" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/14). FS1's Jon Paul Morosi said it was "one more victory for one of the great politicians in America," Bud Selig, who has "always prided himself on developing a consensus." Manfred wants to "continue Bud Selig's legacy, so clearly he understands that really the framework is there for him to just continue on what Bud Selig has done" ("Fox Sports Live," FS1, 8/14).
SHORT ON SPECIFICS: In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck notes Manfred in discussing his plans was "short on specifics in his first news conference as commissioner-elect." Instead, he "seemed content to portray his role as building on the legacy of his long-time boss, since Selig has presided over the unprecedented economic growth of the game and several dynamic changes in the way it is played in the 21st century" (Baltimore SUN, 8/15). In N.Y., Tyler Kepner writes Manfred in his first press conference "could have at least played to the idea that he represents the fans." Instead, he "said nothing at all inspiring." It is "hard to imagine a fan watching Manfred’s news conference and becoming genuinely excited by anything he said." Keeping the owners "harmonious and happy may be his literal job description, but Manfred missed a chance to offer more." A few "actual ideas on Thursday ... should not have been too much to ask." Meanwhile, owners said that the "divisions exposed by Werner’s candidacy ... will recede." Baer: “That probably has a shelf life of about 20 minutes, and then we’re off. When Rob takes over in January, nobody’s going to be thinking about that" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/15). Manfred said he hopes to "add to" Selig's legacy, and in Houston, Jerome Solomon writes, "Let's hope that doesn't mean he is afraid of change. Surely he brings his own ideas to the office." MLB needs "new, innovative ideas." It "needs to move forward in a major way, and the new commissioner should lead that push" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 8/15).
FIRST ORDER OF BUSINESS: In N.Y., Michael Schmidt notes many of the "challenges Manfred faces are related to business, not labor, his area of expertise." The owners are "concerned that their fan base is shrinking and that the sport has not made enough progress with international growth." Red Sox Chair Tom Werner, who lost out to Manfred in the election, said, "I think that Rob agrees with many of the ideas I espoused and I'm very confident we're going to see some things such as improved pace of play" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/15). The JOURNAL SENTINEL's Haudricourt writes Manfred "must address issues that include decreased interest in baseball among young people and an average game time that has stretched to 3:03 -- up 30 minutes from 1981." Giants President & CEO Larry Baer: "We have to figure out ways to make it relevant to that 12-year-old. I have four children, and we want to make baseball as relevant as possible to them with their handheld and on television and getting more people playing the sport" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 8/15). The AP's Ronald Blum noted the length of games "will be a top priority." Baer: "That's going to be toward the top of his list. ... Every candidate talked about it, and every owner wants it. Obviously, there will need to be player input" (AP, 8/14). Meanwhile, FS1's Gabe Kapler said Manfred's most important job is "developing a relationship with the Major League Baseball Players Association and nurturing that relationship going forward." Kapler: "You have the 15 years as Executive Vice President of Labor relationship and the lead negotiator in all the labor stoppages that we’ve had over the years. He was just exceptional in keeping peace with the Major League Baseball Players Association" ("MLB Whiparound," FS1, 8/14). ESPN's Eduardo Perez: "Baseball itself has been able to stay on the field and has been able to stay at peace for a long time. ... It's a brilliant move by Selig and the owners to keep Manfred there” (“Baseball Tonight,” ESPN, 8/15).
THROWING A CHANGE-UP? In Chicago, Ed Sherman asks, "Has baseball become a provincial game for fans? In other words, fans are interested in the home team, but not so much in national stories. Once your Favorite Nine fades out of the race, you turn your attention elsewhere. You certainly can come to that conclusion based on local and national ratings. It has to be a concern for baseball's various network partners." The "fact is the game does move too slowly and it is losing fans, young and old" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/15). ESPN.com's Gordon Edes wrote despite the success of things like interleague play, expanded playoffs and the World Baseball Classic, "danger still lurks in the shadows, and baseball cannot afford to be blinded by its own prosperity and overlook it." Edes: "Most of all, baseball cannot be smug about its success, and its fraying connection with the next generation of fans" (ESPN.com, 8/14).
The Washington Post report that the NFL is discussing heavier punishment for domestic abuse offenders is drawing a variety of reactions in columns and on sports talk TV shows.
UP WITH PEOPLE: L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke called the proposed rules a positive, saying, "The media shouted about it, advocacy groups shouted about it, social media shouted about it, people complained. And the NFL, being a big business, listened. That's a huge victory for the fact there can be a groundswell of support in this country against something that's horrendous as domestic violence, and …it worked." Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said the "public reacted so negatively to what the NFL had done and the NFL finally -- even though it's big business and bigger than the people, if you will -- has listened to the people." The N.Y. Daily News' Frank Isola: "I want to hear what the players union has to say about this, because when you're talking about a penalty where you're talking about eliminating a full season in a career where guys do not have a long shelf life in the NFL, that will be very interesting. But I think the NFL has gone from zero to 60 on this issue and it's a good thing" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/14). ESPN's Michael Smith said, "It feels like they're doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, because I'm trying to figure out what changed between now and the Hall of Fame game when Roger Goodell was defending the process. … He's doing it as a reaction to the widespread criticism from us and others" ("Numbers Never Lie," ESPN2, 8/14). Sports On Earth's Will Leitch said, "If they really wanted to take a strong stance on this, Roger Goodell would go out and say, 'It's four games, it's six games.' They're not doing that. They're leaking the notion that they may be doing something about it." FS1's Bill Reiter: "At least they're taking it seriously enough to try a trial balloon" ("Fox Sports Live," FS1, 8/14).
A STEP, NOT STILL NOT ENOUGH: USA TODAY's Lorenzo Reyes wrote, "Stricter penalties across the board ... deliver a statement." But the league is considering changes "in the wake of blistering criticism" for the Ray Rice suspension, and it is "doing so only after attempts at defending the decision ... were broadly ridiculed." It "shouldn’t require harrowing surveillance footage of Rice dragging his seemingly unconscious then-fiancée out of an elevator for the NFL to realize domestic violence is a serious concern it needs to address" (USATODAY.com, 8/14). In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette writes the proposed penalties may not be "harsh enough for any player who uses a woman as a punching bag." The move indicated the NFL "appears to recognize that its punishment of Rice ... was ridiculously lenient." Frenette: "But please don't applaud the NFL for coming to its senses. It should have stepped up to shame players who abuse women a long time ago" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 8/15). ESPN's Keith Olbermann said, "Wow! They're actually considering maybe doing something about tripling the penalty so that it increases all the way to inadequate" ("Olbermann," ESPN, 8/15).
A PURE PR PLAY: In Baltimore, Susan Reimer writes, “Ladies, this is what it feels like to be pandered to.” The NFL is “scrambling to get back in your good graces after appearing to care more about whether its players were smoking marijuana than whether they were punching out their girlfriends.” Reimer: “I have absolutely no expectation that the new policy will prevent a single punch from being thrown.” That is “not how domestic violence works,” and it is “not going to neutralize the toxic mix of testosterone and entitlement in players.” This looks for "all the world like putting lipstick on a pigskin” (Baltimore SUN, 8/15).
CONTINUING EDUCATION: ESPN's Jason Whitlock called the idea "sound public relations" but noted he would "like to see the NFL try to force players into some type of educational program before they get into trouble." Whitlock: "Punishment for the sake of punishment, bowing to public pressure -- I think they should be very careful here. Education does a better job than punishment" ("PTI," ESPN, 8/14). ESPN's Bomani Jones said, "The likelihood of this being a deterrent to domestic violence in my opinion is probably low because it doesn't seem like the sort of crime where somebody is stopping and weighing the cost/benefit of it before they perform it" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/14).