In January 2008, Bud Selig did it again. The owners begged him to stay on as the commissioner of baseball, and despite saying that he was likely done with the job, took the 3-year extension anyway.
"This is clearly it," Selig said at the time of the extension. "I could say this without equivocation."
He has said it all before. He has been man at the head of Major League Baseball since the ouster of Fay Vincent in Sept of 1992, albeit at that time he had the mantle of “interim commissioner”. Over and over, Selig said he didn’t want the job permanently, but in 1998 that’s what he did, giving up control of the Milwaukee Brewers to his family.
This time he says he means it, although he’s said it before. His contract is set to expire at the end of the 2012 season, or about one year from now.
"Look, when this is over, I'm going to be 78 years old," Selig said in 2008.
In 2008, it was A’s managing partner Lew Wolff that got the campaign started to get Bud to renew. It’s possible he, and others, will try and get him to do it again. Selig is adored by the ownership brethren, so much so that if he were to pass away on the job, some might consider to themselves whether to stuff him, prop him up at the meetings, and hold a séance where Bud would run the league from the afterlife.
But, if Selig holds his word. If indeed, he wishes to spend time away from the game and write his memoirs, then someone will have to replace him. It’s a year away. There hasn’t (yet) been any noise of a search committee to replace him. If he does walk, here’s some that could be considered candidates:
Rob Manfred – After Bob DuPuy left the league as its president, Manfred, the Executive VP of Labor Relations has ostensibly become MLB’s #2 in power. He, and the relationship that has been built up over the years with now MLBPA Exec Director Michael Weiner, has been critical to much of the league’s stability. Manfred knows baseball. He knows where all the skeletons are buried. He’s been in the labor trenches, played the part of politician between the owners and has fought the battles that have come out of it – internally or externally. The thing that Manfred isn’t is an owner. What has never been publically spoke of is whether he is a consensus builder, the thing that has made Selig a master at pushing the league’s agenda forward. If the move to replace Selig is internal, then Manfred would likely be on the short list.
Andy MacPhail – MacPhail certainly has the linage and resume to fill the role of commissioner, something that has been talked of in the media. His grandfather of Larry MacPhail an exec in baseball with the Reds (chief executive), Yankees and Dodgers (president). He’s the son of Lee MacPhail, the former president of the American League. Andy has most recently been the president of baseball operations for the Baltimore Orioles, was the President/CEO of the Cubs from 1994-2006, and was the GM for the Twins when the team won two World Series Championships. If the owners are looking for someone that has been involved in facets of the game, as well as someone that understands directly its history, MacPhail will likely be someone on a search committee’s radar.
Sandy Alderson – The current Mets GM has a distinct advantage as a candidate as his background is somewhat of a hybrid between Manfred and MacPhail. He was general counsel for the A’s before becoming their GM, went to work for the Commissioner’s Office where he was the Exec VP of Baseball Operations from 1998-2005, involved in cleaning up operations in the Dominican, and was the CEO of the Padres from 2005-2009. In that, he crosses over to the legal side of the game, as well as has a key understanding of what clubs deal with from both a small market and large market perspective. He has a reputation as being exceptionally smart, and is seen as the earliest adopter of sabermetrics in today’s game.
Stan Kasten – At one point, Kasten seemed high on the list for consideration by a search committee. He is still the only sports executive to hold the position of president across three clubs simultaneously (Braves, Hawks, Thrashers). He also oversaw the transformation of the Atlanta Summer Olympic Stadium into what is now Turner Field, and was most recently the president of the Washington Nationals where he was also part owner. Kasten has remained in the background over the last year, although in speaking to him during the Winter Meetings in Orlando last December, he didn’t rule out being involved in ownership or some other facet as an executive. Whether his time away has any bearing on his ability to be an effective commissioner candidate remains to be seen.
An Outsider – Up to this stage, everyone mentioned has had a background deeply rooted in the sport. But, baseball has had commissioners that have been steeped in business leadership, and not been an owner or other exec in the game, prior. In speaking to those that follow the business of baseball closely, there are those that think that while Selig’s background as an owner was critical to his eventual selection as commissioner, that need is no longer as critical as it once was. In that, maybe – just maybe – someone from outside The Lodge could be up for consideration. Who that might be is anyone’s guess.
Why Mess with a Good Thing? – But, if you’re going to talk about who the next commissioner of baseball is going to be at the end of next season, comments aside, you still have to say Bud Selig is at the top of that list. He is now the longest tenured commissioner in history behind only Kenesaw Landis, the first ever commissioner of Major League Baseball. There’s little doubting that the owners would like nothing more than to have Selig remain commissioner for life. Through labor battles with the players, the current bankruptcy churn of owners such as Tom Hicks and Frank McCourt, Selig is still seen by many as the best commissioner the game has ever had. Only Selig – through decision or health – is likely to stop his run. A year from now, we’ll now where baseball is ultimately headed.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
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