MLB Commissioner Candidates Impress During Presentations, But Will There Be A Consensus?
The three finalists to succeed MLB Commissioner Bud Selig -- MLB COO Rob Manfred, MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan and Red Sox Chair Tom Werner -- each gave a presentation yesterday afternoon in Baltimore lasting about an hour, followed by question-and-answer sessions. The three presented in alphabetical order and were scheduled to engage in further questioning from owners this morning in smaller groups of 10 clubs prior to the beginning of voting. Owners yesterday declined to speak on the substance of the talks, but Manfred, Brosnan and Werner each won widespread praise. Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner said, “Bill DeWitt and his committee did a great job. They brought in three very viable candidates, and they represented themselves well.” Werner declined to comment on his session except to say, "I think it went well.” Also present yesterday at the owner meetings were representatives from Korn/Ferry Int'l, the executive recruitment outfit used by the succession committee (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). In Boston, Nick Cafardo reports it was clear based on Werner's "demeanor and the way others in the room spoke about him that he impressed the owners with his message." One owner said, "He knocked it out of the park. Don’t know if he changed anyone’s mind, but he made some outstanding points on where he sees the game going and what we need to do to be more current and change with the times" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/14). In N.Y., Thompson, O'Keeffe & Vinton report Selig "attended the meeting and ordered a strict gag order on the deliberations, enforceable with fines." Angels Owner Arte Moreno: "They are all very qualified. I think it’s been a very fair process and very educational." Another owner described the presentations as "three very good presentations from three very different people" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/14).
PROGNOSTICATING THE RACE: In N.Y., Michael Schmidt reports those "outwardly supporting Manfred contend that he already has the support of nearly 20 teams, close to what he needs to win." His backers hope that Selig, with his "talent for political arm-twisting, will be able to persuade three more clubs to come over to Manfred’s side and guarantee the outcome" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/14). CBSSPORTS.com's Jon Heyman cited one Manfred-supporting owner as saying that he "likens it to a jury with an 11-to-1 vote going in, with enough of the minority likely to join the leading side in a subsequent vote to carry Manfred through" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/13). In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck writes owners "have shown during the Selig era that they place a high value on consensus, so they’ll likely find a way to smooth over any factional differences in time to introduce the sport’s new leader by midday Thursday" (Baltimore SUN, 8/14). However, in L.A., Bill Shaikin writes while today "was supposed to be Coronation Day," the vote instead "might turn into something of a palace coup." All Werner and Brosnan need to "throw the process into chaos is to combine for eight votes on the first ballot, triggering what could be an unseemly round of promises in exchange for votes." A source yesterday said he saw "no chance" a new commissioner is elected on the first ballot (L.A. TIMES, 8/14). CSNBAYAREA.com's Ray Ratto wrote the vote "has nothing to do with who the next commissioner is going to be." What it "will really tell us is which owner or owners is running baseball now." This is "not about who will succeed Selig, but who will succeed" White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf (CSNBAYAREA.com, 8/13).
FIRST TASKS TO TACKLE: In N.Y., Joel Sherman lists three areas that are "most important" for the next commissioner, starting with the pace of play. He should "use the Arizona Fall League, spring training and -- if he can get cooperation -- levels of the minor leagues to experiment with pitch clocks, hitters being penalized with a strike if they leave the batter’s box, limiting mound visits by catchers, limiting pitching changes per inning." See what "works and make it part of the majors." The new commissioner is "going to have to deftly get his owners to common ground before even maneuvering" with the MLBPA. Also, better inroads "must be made with the African-American community and in poorer areas of this country" (N.Y. POST, 8/14). In N.Y., Juliet Macur writes the new commissioner "could institute a time limit for games, which used to be somewhat reasonable and are now, at times, interminable." The average "is more than three hours, having increased a minute a year for the past 30 years." Multiply that average by a team’s 162 games, and you "have 486 hours of baseball every year per team" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/14).
THE NEED TO GROW INTERNATIONALLY: FOXSPORTS.com's Jon Paul Morosi wrote Selig's successor should be the candidate "with the clearest, boldest and most practical plan to grow the sport internationally." The "most important near-term tasks" for whoever is elected is "successfully negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement after the 2016 season and ... growing the game globally." Selig on Tuesday again suggested MLB will play games during the '15 season in either London or the Netherlands, and Morosi wrote the league must "act quickly to seize upon previously untapped markets, lest those countries near their sports saturation points before baseball takes an at-bat" (FOXSPORTS.com, 8/13). ESPN's Keith Olbermann sarcastically noted Selig "wants to address one urgent vital marketing need before he loosens his grips on the baseball reins," as he "wants to eliminate the biggest problem facing baseball: Not enough regular season games in Europe." Making the trip across the Atlantic would come after the "brilliant and brilliantly pointless regular-season openers in Tokyo in 2012 and Australia last March." Olbermann: "As to the pressing crisis of MLB staging more international stunts so they can add literally hundreds of dollars in overseas cap and jersey sales, as a friend of mine said, 'When are these guys going to realize people will go to see the circus when it's in town'" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 8/13).