SBD/August 15, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Manfred Likely To Continue Selig's Ideals, But Initially Short On Revealing Specifics

Manfred has been a key figure for MLB over the last twenty years
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).
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