Major League Baseball’s 30 owners have begun two days of meetings in Baltimore this week to vote on MLB Commissioner Bud Selig’s replacement.
MLB Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred, Boston Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner and MLB Executive Vice President of Business Tim Brosnan were picked by the seven-man succession committee as candidates and were slated to make presentations Wednesday to the delegations from the 30 teams.
Selig, 80, has ruled baseball since September 1992, first as chairman of baseball’s executive council and since July 1998 as commissioner. The former Milwaukee Brewers owner announced last fall that he plans to retire in January 2015.
“The process has worked just the way I thought it would,” Selig said Tuesday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. “I gave them a great list of names, and these names were on it.”
Balloting is planned for Thursday and a three-quarters majority — 23 — is needed for election.
Owners have estimated Manfred has the support of 20-21 teams headed into the meetings, Werner of about six and Brosnan one: the Cincinnati Reds. The Major League Constitution specifies that the vote shall be by written ballot but doesn’t say whether each team’s vote remains secret.
“A lot of other people are making predictions,” Selig said. “I’m staying out of that business because I don’t know.”
Manfred, 55, has been involved in baseball since 1987, starting as a lawyer with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. He became MLB’s executive vice president for labor relations and human resources in 1998, received an expanded role of executive vice president of economics and league affairs in 2012 and last September was promoted to chief operating officer. He helped lead negotiations for baseball’s last three labor contracts with players and the joint drug agreement that was instituted in 2002 and has been repeatedly strengthened.
Werner, 64, was involved with the San Diego Padres from 1990-94 and has been part of the Red Sox ownership group since 2002. While working at ABC, he helped develop Robin Williams’ “Mork & Mindy” and later was executive producer of “The Cosby Show” and “Roseanne” at The Carsey-Werner Co., which he ran with Marcy Carsey.
Werner is supported by Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno. Other teams have said Reinsdorf wants a commissioner who will take a harsher stance in labor negotiations for the deal to replace the collective bargaining agreement that expires after the 2016 season.
Brosnan, 56, was hired by MLB as vice president of international business affairs in 1991, became chief operating officer of Major League Baseball International in 1994 and senior vice president of domestic and international properties in 1998. He has held his current role since 2000. A lawyer like Manfred, he has been a key figure in the negotiations of MLB’s national broadcasting contracts.
An initial deadlock would not be unprecedented.
Baseball owners had difficulty electing a successor to Spike Eckert, who was fired in December 1968. With the requirement then a three-quarters majority in both the American and National leagues, teams split between San Francisco Giants vice president Chub Feeney and Yankees president Michael Burke and failed to elect anyone during 19 ballots on Dec. 20-21 in a meeting that ended at 5:05 a.m.
Bowie Kuhn, a partner at the law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher and counsel to baseball’s Player Relations Committee, then was elected commissioner pro-tem on Feb. 4 with a one-year term. He was voted a seven-year term that August and remained in office until 1984, when he was replaced by Los Angeles Olympics head Peter Ueberroth.
Former Yale President A. Bartlett Giamatti took over from Ueberroth in 1989, died later that year and was replaced by his deputy, Fay Vincent. Selig and Reinsdorf headed the group that pressured for Vincent’s forced resignation in September 1992 and led to the 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that canceled the World Series.
Asked what would happen if there is an impasse, Selig replied, “This seven-man committee has done really good work. We’ll see what happens.”
This is what won’t happen: Selig changing his mind and sticking around.
“I thought long and hard before I made my announcement in October of last year,” he said of the announcement, actually made Sept. 26. “I just celebrated my 80th birthday. In life, there’s a time to come but there’s also a time to go. I’m looking forward to that. I have a lot of things planned.”
Those plans include writing an autobiography, teaching at two or three universities and “maybe a little peace and quiet.”
“It’s time for baseball to move on and it’s time for me to move on,” he said. “If anybody would have told me back in September of 1992 I’d be here 22 1/2, 23 years, that would have not been conceivable. So, I’m done.”
Before he leaves, Selig hopes to see the feud resolved between the Orioles and Washington Nationals over their broadcast rights. The Orioles own a controlling stake in MASN, which televises Nationals games as a result of an agreement when the team moved from Montreal. The Nationals want higher annual broadcast rights payments from MASN, and the network isn’t willing to pay the desired amount.
“MASN is an inner-club dispute,” Selig said. “It’s an important goal before I step down. We’ve tried very hard, and we’ll continue to try. We’re doing everything we can.”
As far as Thursday’s vote goes, Selig has only one priority.
“The only goal I’ve really had all along is, when it’s all over that people can say, ‘Well, it was really fair,'” Selig said.
He was delighted to see that, even though the sport doesn’t have a salary cap, small-market teams such as Kansas City, Oakland and Tampa Bay have flourished.
“The things we set out to do in the ’90s, that was the objective,” Selig said. “I always have regarded my job to be to provide hope and faith in as many places as possible. And we’ve done that. Baseball is better off as a result of it.”