Scouting report: The next MLB commissioner
No defined candidate list or search process yet exists, but based on interviews with senior industry executives inside and outside the game, these are some of the foremost candidates for potentially becoming the 10th commissioner of Major League Baseball.
Executive vice president, economics and league affairs
Major League Baseball
The skinny: The league’s longtime lead labor lawyer has seen his stature improve considerably over the last two years as he has run point for MLB on critical league issues such as the Los Angeles Dodgers bankruptcy, local TV contract issues with both the Dodgers and Washington Nationals, and ongoing talks with the MLB Players Association on combating performance-enhancing drugs. Manfred is essentially the baseball executive most comparable to NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, the designated successor to David Stern, and probably the nearest thing that exists to a clubhouse leader this early in the process.
Executive vice president, business
Major League Baseball
The skinny: Since the departure of MLB President Bob DuPuy in 2010, Brosnan has essentially run the business of baseball while Manfred has handled the administration. And like Manfred, Brosnan has seen his stature grow substantially as a result. Brosnan in 2012 posted a career year with the signing of new national TV contracts, the completion of a lucrative new contract with beer sponsor Anheuser-Busch, and marked growth of the MLB Fan Cave. A vote for Brosnan instead of Manfred would be one signifying the importance of revenue growth.
Former U.S. senator (D-N.D.); steering committee member, Campaign To Fix The Debt
The skinny: The husband of MLB lobbyist Lucy Calautti, Conrad fashioned much of his political career around fiscal issues and remains actively involved on that topic on a nonpartisan, advocacy basis. But Conrad is essentially a free agent following his retirement from the Capitol. As commissioner, he would give baseball further standing in Washington, always a critical element in the health of any major sports league.
The skinny: Bud Selig went from the Brewers’ owner chair to running the league. So how about a repeat? Attanasio is well-regarded around the league, particularly with his ability to compete regularly on the field and surpass 3 million in annual attendance in what is baseball’s smallest media market. Attanasio sits on five league committees, including influential ownership, labor and finance panels, and quietly and steadily has become an influential voice in the sport’s inner circle.
San Francisco Giants
The skinny: Baer has done a highly admirable job running the Giants, leading the once-moribund franchise to two World Series titles and an industry leadership position on a wide range of emerging trends such as next-generation facility enhancements and digital ticketing. Baer also boasts a varied background in media, marketing and development, giving him a diverse skill set that could apply well to the job. Easily comfortable in front of a camera or microphone, Baer would have no trouble with the immense public demands of the commissioner job.
The skinny: A member of Selig’s 2000 Blue Ribbon Committee on Baseball Economics, Levin is well-versed on the revenue disparity issues in the game that in many ways are beginning to resurface as a result of local TV. The Blue Ribbon Committee’s report was not particularly well-received by the union, but at Yale for the past two decades, Levin knows his way around a labor contract as he has presided over what is essentially a diversified, multibillion-dollar operation. The 65-year-old Levin plans to retire from the university in June.
The skinny: Dombrowski is among a select group of club presidents who came up as a baseball operations executive, giving him experience on both sides of a team organization. Well-respected in the game, the Tigers under Dombrowski boast two American League pennants in the past seven years and routinely post attendance and revenue totals beyond what economically battered Detroit should seemingly be able to deliver. Dombrowski carries a calm, decisive demeanor that immediately conveys a sense of leadership.
Boston Red Sox
The skinny: A longtime baseball insider, the television magnate has sat on many of the league’s key committees, including the Executive Council and MLB Enterprises board, and as a result has had an active hand in most every significant change in the game. Recent high-profile setbacks in Boston aside, the Red Sox and Fenway Park remain far stronger for the involvement of Werner and partners John Henry and Larry Lucchino. A Werner bid would need to convey sensitivity to smaller market clubs operating in a far different economic strata than the Red Sox.
The skinny: A lower-profile executive compared to many other comparable club leaders, McGuirk nonetheless garners plenty of respect among his colleagues inside the game. Chairman of MLB’s media committee, McGuirk has leveraged his TV background to help shepherd the growth of the MLB Network and the league’s overall media profile.