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Baseball’s next commissioner: Davey Johnson?

May 6, 2013, 7:55 PM EDT

Davey Johnson AP

In a column for the Orlando Sentinel, Shannon Owens goes over some of the available options to replace Bud Selig as commissioner of baseball. Former President George W. Bush and NBC’s Dick Ebersol are cited, but Owens cites Nationals manager Davey Johnson as another candidate who could fit the billing.

Johnson is 70 years old and will retire at the end of the season, but will continue to serve the Nationals as a consultant. Owens suggests Johnson loves baseball too much to walk away so soon.

Owens writes:

Johnson is a proven leader, and I’m not referring to his career wins and losses or three World Series championships.


I’m talking about a man who was savvy enough to create a computer program that allowed him to generate more successful lineup options based on percentage baseball theories as a player for the Baltimore Orioles almost 30 years before Orlando-born Billy Beane and the movie, Moneyball, became Hollywood hits.

I’m talking about a man willing to fight with and for players like he did in shutting down National pitcher Stephen Strasburg early to preserve his and the team’s long-term success.


I believe Johnson can do that. Sports commissioners don’t have to rule for 20-plus years. If eight years is enough time for person to run a country, perhaps that term limit is more than enough to run the MLB.

It is certainly interesting to think about, and we’ll hear more names brought up as the time draws closer, but you can certainly do worse than Davey Johnson.

  1. chill1184 - May 6, 2013 at 8:03 PM

    Will he kick out Fred Wilpon?

  2. tfbuckfutter - May 6, 2013 at 8:04 PM

    If George Bush is ever in charge of anything again I will no longer support that thing.

    If he is put in charge of baseball I’m moving my sporting interest to Canada….curling, I guess. Goooo broomheads!

    • Old Gator - May 6, 2013 at 8:40 PM

      Bucky, think for a minute, will you? This job calls for an idiot.

      • tfbuckfutter - May 6, 2013 at 9:25 PM

        Just because precedent has been set doesn’t mean we can’t mix it up.

    • djpostl - May 6, 2013 at 9:29 PM

      Old ‘Dumbya was the only owner who voted against instituting the new divisional set-up and the original wild card…don’t think that kind of “foresight” is what we’re looking for.

      • tfbuckfutter - May 6, 2013 at 9:47 PM

        Or a guy who would show up in front of the media wearing a Yunel Escobar jersey after the eyeblack controversy?

        You know….assuming anyone could get him to understand what all them “meskin words” mean.

      • djpostl - May 7, 2013 at 1:38 AM


      • duckthefodgers - May 7, 2013 at 12:04 AM

        And yet he was elected president twice.

      • djpostl - May 7, 2013 at 1:38 AM

        “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.”

  3. hushbrother - May 6, 2013 at 8:15 PM

    I think it will be Derrick Hall.

  4. alexo0 - May 6, 2013 at 8:16 PM

    The commissioner position was created to ultimately represent the interests of the owners. Based on that, would Johnson ever be seriously considered?

  5. cubfan531 - May 6, 2013 at 8:21 PM

    I still stand by the idea of Bob Costas for Commissioner. It’ll never happen, but it’d be damn fun to see.

  6. mybrunoblog - May 6, 2013 at 8:23 PM

    President Bush wont be the commissioner and neither will Davey Johnson. My guess is either a former owner or somebody from the MLB league offices. Sorry, no Bob Costas either.

  7. thebadguyswon - May 6, 2013 at 8:35 PM

    Agreed….it will be somebody already working in the MLB league offices.

  8. yousuxxors - May 6, 2013 at 8:36 PM

    Jeff Loria

  9. historiophiliac - May 6, 2013 at 8:37 PM

    Mitt Romney

    • dondada10 - May 6, 2013 at 10:19 PM

      Only if you’re in his binder.

    • blacksables - May 7, 2013 at 6:08 AM

      Vin Scully

    • abaird2012 - May 7, 2013 at 7:54 AM


      Osbourne, of course.

  10. Old Gator - May 6, 2013 at 8:41 PM

    I can’t see Johnson in that job. It needs an asshole.

    • nbjays - May 6, 2013 at 9:35 PM

      As yousuxxors said above, Jeff Loria :-)

  11. tuberippin - May 6, 2013 at 8:55 PM

    No, there’s no rule requiring 20+ years as a commish in order to be one. However, the track record shows you end up being in that position for at least one decade.

    * Kenesaw Mountain Landis: 24 years, 54 years old when appointed
    * Happy Chandler: 6 years (kicked out by the owners for integrating baseball), 47 years old when appointed
    * Ford C. Frick: 14 years, 57 years old when appointed
    * William Eckert: 3 years (forced out by both sides after three years; had not seen a game in a decade before being appointed commish), 56 years old when appointed
    * Bowie Kuhn: 15 years, 43 years old when appointed
    * Peter Ueberroth: 5 years (kicked out for colluding with the owners against the MLBPA), 47 years old when appointed
    * A. Bartlett Giamatti: 1 year (died in office), 51 years old when appointed
    * Fay Vincent: 3 years (pushed out by the owners), 51 years old when appointed
    * Bud Selig: 22 years (once his contract finishes in 2014), 58 years old when appointed

    So Davey Johnson will be 71 going on 72 by the time a new commissioner is appointed. He’d be the Reagan of baseball commissioners in terms of age if he were chosen; he’d be the oldest appointed commissioner by a margin of 14 years over Bud Selig. And since he’d likely be more favorable to players than to owners, he’d be 1) a long shot to be appointed, and 2) very likely a short-term commissioner a la Happy Chandler, Fay Vincent, or William Eckert.

  12. bigleagues - May 6, 2013 at 9:05 PM

    What qualifications does Davey Johnson have that would suggest he would make a good CEO of one of the largest industries in United States?

    Because, what this writer apparently doesn’t understand, and what the average baseball fan is oblivious to, is that Bud Selig is first and foremost CEO of MLB, and all of his decisions as “Commissioner” are filtered through that lens.

    • historiophiliac - May 6, 2013 at 9:33 PM

      Let’s qualify that because it’s not like he’s running the show. These are franchises and he’s just over the front office that coordinates the program. So, it’s more like he’s the head of Amway Avon Kentucky Fried Chicken, than Wal Mart.

      • bigleagues - May 14, 2013 at 3:07 AM

        I am far from a BudSelig fanboy, and I mean this in the most respectful way, but you really need to familiarize yourself with the MLB Constitution, which is the document that spells out exactly what powers and sway Selig does and doesn’t have.

        Suffice it to say, as it pertains to MLB, there are very few powers he does not possess. He is easily the most powerful executive, and by a wider margin, the most powerful “Commissioner” in the history of the game.

        He is far more powerful than any one owner. And even if 50% of owners ganged up on him over an issue, Selig’s powers are still safe.

        Finally, with the naming of the next Commissioner will come a rewriting of the MLB Constitution and the CEO/Commissioner powers will likely be revised down as it took Selig many years to secure the trust and power he currently possesses.

      • historiophiliac - May 14, 2013 at 8:01 AM

        In what way do you think he has the power to tell the owners how to run their teams?

      • bigleagues - May 14, 2013 at 3:16 PM

        Read which is the current MLB Constitution.

        Specifically, all of ARTICLE II which spells out all the powers granted to the Office of Commissioner (aka MLB CEO) in conjunction with Article III which clearly lays out what the owners “Executive Council” (which Selig also Chairs) may or may not do. Which, not insignificantly includes the following passage:

        Nothing contained in this Section 2 shall be deemed to diminish or curtail the jurisdiction granted to the Commissioner under Article II hereof or to empower the Executive Council to amend or suspend in any respect any provisions of this Constitution.

        So, yeah. There’s that.

      • historiophiliac - May 14, 2013 at 3:33 PM

        Which does not say that Selig has the authority to run the individual teams or tell the owners what they can do with their teams. It still is not like a Wal Mart where the CEO runs everything. He can punish the owners of the “franchises” with fines and things, but doesn’t run the teams. How many owners has he actually removed?

      • bigleagues - May 14, 2013 at 6:34 PM

        The MLB Constitution is a legal framework that defines how teams, the league and the Commissioner operates.

        Within that legal framework, Selig, as Commissioner, possesses BROAD powers under the “Best Interests in Baseball Clause”.

        Under that clause he absolutely has the ability to seize control of a franchise if its ownership is not operating that franchise within the guidelines and bylaws of MLB, Inc.

        Walmart does not franchise. It’s a corporation.

        And MLB is a very unique business by virtue of its anti-trust exception. The best way to view it is that MLB is a multi-national corporation with independently run subsidiaries.

      • historiophiliac - May 14, 2013 at 6:52 PM

        So, you got my point then?

      • bigleagues - May 14, 2013 at 8:16 PM

        No I don’t get your point.

        As CEO of MLB, Selig directs and is accountable for each and every business decision that MLB makes.

        Is Selig “operating” the individual clubs? No. But your using the word ‘franchise’ as if MLB is a fast food business. MLB franchises have some similarities with traditional franchise-type businesses, but for the most part are very different.

        For example most MLB teams have markets that they own the rights to. And the ones that share a market, have rules that define how they are allowed to operate within that market.

        Also, each MLB team has affiliate Minor League teams. Most of those affiliates are independently owned and operated, but operate under a carefully defined contract that both the parent club and MLB must sign off on.

        My point is, everything that any MLB franchise does is governed and ruled by MLB, Inc of which Bud Selig has complete autonomy to operate in the best interests of baseball.

        Davey Johnson has managed a couple of teams. He has never owned a team, nor has he even run one, let alone someone speculating that he could be next Commissioner.

        In this modern MLB, the role of CEO and Commissioner have been combined into one office. Maybe they go back to that, but probably not. And that’s why Davey Johnson is not a serious candidate.

    • tuberippin - May 7, 2013 at 12:30 AM

      I disagree. Bud Selig is first and foremost a puppet of the owners, namely because he was one of the owners and one of two primary owners involved in the collusion scandal under the tenure of Peter Ueberroth. He’s a 78-year-old marionette.

      • bigleagues - May 14, 2013 at 3:09 AM

        While it’s true he was once a puppet, he has gathered & now holds far too much power to be accused of being that any longer.

  13. 13arod - May 6, 2013 at 9:15 PM

    what about joe torre or tony la russuia

  14. sgtr0c - May 6, 2013 at 9:41 PM

    My vote is for Charlie. I enjoy his interviews in an odd sort of way. It is like grandpa speak or something, John Wayne ish. I would definately voting Charlie if I had a vote.

    • tuberippin - May 7, 2013 at 12:32 AM

      He’s as old as Davey Johnson, and both of them are already too old to be the Commissioner.

  15. dirtyharry1971 - May 6, 2013 at 9:54 PM

    i would like this pick, i respect johnson. anyone would be better then selig thats for sure

  16. quintjs - May 6, 2013 at 10:45 PM

    It seems to me you want someone who would be a passionate advocate for the game. You want someone who has proven they are run a large organisation, and someone who has dealt with many diverse personalities. Ideally you would also want someone who could increase revenues and reduce costs.

    Am I crazy or is this not a job for Scott Boras?

    He does like baseball, runs his own company, deals with athletes all the time, would increase revenues through ‘mystery network’ negotiations, and reduce costs since he wouldn’t be representing any players.

    • tuberippin - May 7, 2013 at 12:33 AM

      No, you’re crazy. This is a position created by the owners to protect the interests of the owners. Scott Boras is the antithesis of what the owners would vote for in selecting a commissioner.

      • quintjs - May 7, 2013 at 3:53 AM

        And there was no chance i was joking…?

      • tuberippin - May 7, 2013 at 4:20 AM



    • Mr. Chickadee - May 7, 2013 at 9:03 AM

      You don’t think they’d love to finally have him working FOR them?

  17. hittfamily - May 6, 2013 at 10:52 PM

    Alex Anthopolis. Very smart baseball guy, economics degree, out of work (next month).

  18. Old Gator - May 6, 2013 at 11:00 PM

    George Will. No, I haven’t changed my politics, and don’t like his, but the guy is a dyed-in-the-wool baseball fan, super knowledgeable, very alert to and familiar with economic matters, and would represent the sport with dignity, intelligence and elegance.

    • historiophiliac - May 6, 2013 at 11:53 PM

      Well, that wouldn’t start a shit storm w/ the unions. Plus, then he and Rosenthal would always be in a tie competition. Yuck.

    • tuberippin - May 7, 2013 at 12:34 AM

      George Will is even older than Davey Johnson ffs. Not happening. Would never happen, even though baseball loves its conservatism.

    • @Cereal_22 - May 7, 2013 at 10:59 AM

      Will “W” have the authority to start illegal wars for no reason against third world countries as a baseball commish ?

  19. fm31970 - May 6, 2013 at 11:07 PM

    Mike McGuire or Sammy Soosa, perhaps?

    • abaird2012 - May 7, 2013 at 7:59 AM

      Who the hell are they?

  20. chumthumper - May 7, 2013 at 9:00 AM

    Whoever it is, you can bet he’s already in the owner’s hip pocket.

  21. @Cereal_22 - May 7, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    How about someone who knows how to use a smart phone ?

  22. 13arod - May 7, 2013 at 3:16 PM

    i respect bush but we need a former major leaguer here

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