SBJ/Jan. 20-26, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Questions remain for MLB on Selig succession plan

As MLB Commissioner Bud Selig enters his final year in office, the primary question of “who” his successor will be remains, but the “how” and “when” questions about the process continue to exist as well.

Unlike the commissioner transitions in several other big leagues in recent years, there is not a designated heir apparent in MLB nor is there a delineated search process or timetable for identifying that next commissioner. The only thing known for certain is that Selig intends to step down on Jan. 24, 2015 — and even that may be somewhat fluid given his tendency to back off retirement pronouncements.

The only thing certain is that Bud Selig will step down as commissioner Jan. 24, 2015.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
“It’s just spooky quiet,” said a well-connected baseball executive. “This sport’s not necessarily the best at keeping secrets, but there’s just been nothing out there on this one.”

And that, not surprisingly, is how Selig prefers it.

“There’s a lot of things going on, but this is not the thing we’re going to have a big public discussion on,” Selig said at the conclusion of the meetings here. “I give the other sports a lot of credit. They handled it quietly and thoughtfully. The fact that there’s no discussion doesn’t mean there aren’t things going on.”

Baseball executives suggested the most likely timetable would see the groundswell toward naming MLB’s 10th commissioner accelerating over the summer, with a formal vote occurring at the owners meetings in November. Selig would then get a formal send-off at the meetings here in Arizona next January.

Industry speculation has centered foremost on internal candidates, such as COO Rob Manfred; Tim Brosnan, executive vice president of business; and Detroit Tigers President Dave Dombrowski. But Selig refused to tip his hand even to what kind of experience would be best for the job.

“There’s no book on commissioners,” Selig said. “There’s no training school. Commissioners come from different areas.”
Despite the relative silence about Selig’s successor, several baseball executives said there is no overriding concern about finding that new commissioner. The sport is awash in money, particularly with new national TV contracts going into effect this year and outfits such as MLB Advanced Media and MLB Network showing accelerating growth. Arguably the next major hurdle for baseball is a labor deal to negotiate in 2016.

Said the one baseball executive, “There’s still time on that, and with [new MLB Players Association Executive Director] Tony Clark coming in, there’s an opportunity for the new commissioner and Tony to forge a relationship before negotiations.”

GAMING SMASH: Even MLB Advanced Media executives were taken aback with the viral outpouring of fan support for the outfit’s planned revival of the “RBI Baseball” video game franchise. MLBAM last week announced and detailed to its board of directors plans to release this spring “RBI Baseball 14,” its first attempt at a game that will be available on gaming consoles in addition to mobile platforms.

Fans showed their support for the revival of the “RBI Baseball” video game.
The original “RBI Baseball” was a highly popular title on the Nintendo gaming system in the late 1980s and early 1990s and was the first baseball game to be licensed by the MLB Players Association.

Said Bob Bowman, MLB Advanced Media president and chief executive, about the swell of fan support on social media for the revival, “I’ve frankly never seen anything [like it].”

“We’ve been working on this for six months, and this obviously has been an important project for us, but I didn’t really have a full sense of the historic importance of this title to so many people,” Bowman said. “It’s now even more incumbent upon us to deliver upon those expectations.”

“RBI Baseball 14” also ensures that MLB will have a presence on the Xbox gaming platforms, as Sony’s “MLB: The Show” is a PlayStation exclusive and 2K Sports’ “MLB 2K” series is defunct.

Bowman declined to outline any specific details on the game, including its development partner, release date or projected retail price. Those components will be released in the coming weeks. But Bowman vowed the new game will be faithful to the much-beloved original.

“We’re trying to have something that is in line with what people expect from the current platforms but still stays true to what this game was,” Bowman said.

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