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SBJ/March 24-30, 2014/In Depth
Who's on deck for MLB commissioner?
Published March 24, 2014, Page 32
MLB reporter Eric Fisher and senior writer Bill King break down the most likely candidates to succeed Bud Selig as MLB commissioner, and what Rob Manfred's role is in the process.
Some prefer a younger, more charismatic candidate able to communicate with youth audiences. Others are said to favor a more experienced hand who might be better prepared to handle divergent owner interests, as maintaining league unity will be a major challenge for any new commissioner. In either instance, anybody without the last name of “Selig” is all but certain to face some difficulty garnering the needed 23 owner votes for election.
Some external candidates, such as former ESPN President George Bodenheimer, have received courtesy calls from various owners to gauge their possible interest in the post (Bodenheimer declined). But there appears to be general industry agreement that the successor to Selig will most likely come from inside the game.
Here’s a look at several potential candidates, in alphabetical order.
Milwaukee Brewers owner
In less than a decade in the game, Attanasio has shown his mettle by working on several key league committees, including the ownership and labor policy groups, and routinely outperforming the small-market constraints of Milwaukee.
MLB Advanced Media president and chief executive
With extensive business experience in both the public and private sectors, and now nearly a decade and a half inside of baseball, there is little Bowman hasn’t yet seen. With MLBAM revenue soaring amid major new deals with the likes of Sony, the World Wrestling Federation and the new 120 Sports collective, Bowman has turned baseball’s digital arm into a crucial asset that in turn is fueling mushrooming franchise values.
MLB executive vice president for business
The tired, old refrain of “baseball is dying” keeps making the rounds. But you definitely wouldn’t know it from the revenue growth in Brosnan’s lines of responsibilities. MLB’s new national TV contracts, which essentially doubled the prior deals, go into effect this year, and sponsorship and merchandise revenue also stands at historical highs. Brosnan also has been pushing hard to place MLB into new areas of pop culture, such as the Fan Cave and the new programming deal with MTV.
Detroit Tigers president, chief executive and general manager
Similar to Attanasio in Milwaukee, Dombrowski has generated on and off-field results far in excess of what his home market would seemingly be able to produce. Widely respected, Dombrowski’s deep experience in baseball operations also lends well to where many of the sport’s forthcoming changes will likely be focused.
Allen & Co. managing director
He’s technically not part of baseball but as a former deputy MLB commissioner and banker, and adviser for many team sales, he’s about as close to the fraternity as one could get without actually being in it. Greenberg, too, is well respected, but likes to operate quietly behind the scenes and currently has a job he quite likes. Would he give it up for the public scrutiny and demands of the commissioner’s chair?
Arizona Diamondbacks president
He has publicly disavowed any interest in the post, but given Hall is extremely well spoken, has bounds of energy, shows an easy comfort on social media, and has been a key figure in baseball’s efforts in areas such as diversity and international development, it’s easy to see how he would be a strong ambassador for baseball in the enlarged role.
MLB chief operating officer
The league’s longtime lead labor lawyer saw two new title changes in the past year, including an elevation by Selig to chief operating officer. Still the closest thing MLB has to a deputy commissioner, Manfred now oversees the administrative functions of the league and is deeply involved in club matters.
Yes, Selig has said over and over that he intends to step down in January. Yes, he’s been more strident this time in his comments and demeanor on the subject. But we’ve been down this road three times before, only to see him change course and sign another contract extension. There are plenty in the game who refuse to believe Selig is retiring until they actually see him do it. If owners plead with him to stay on for another year or two, would he really say no?