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If Rob Manfred is Bud Selig’s heir apparent, why are there three finalists?

Aug 6, 2014, 12:31 PM EDT

We learned last night that there are three finalists to succeed Bud Selig as the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. They are Rob Manfred, MLB’s chief operating officer; Tim Brosnan, MLB’s executive vice president of business; and Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner.

However, most people playing close attention to all of this say that (a) Rob Manfred is Selig’s hand-picked successor; and (b) he is the favorite to get the job, by far. If so, why are the other two candidates hanging around?

One possible answer is that the owners really haven’t decided on Manfred yet. I sort of doubt that. The people reporting that Manfred is the guy tend to know what they’re talking about. Another answer is that the owners want to make it look like they are considering a lot of options if, for no other reason, than for the optics of it all. I doubt that too. For one thing the owners have never really cared about optics. For another, they also don’t want to waste unnecessary time on this, and putting up p.r.-driven candidates is a waste of time. Plus, there are better p.r. candidates than Brosnan and Werner if that’s what they were thinking. That’s not it.

What I think is really going on here is that a message is being sent to Manfred. A preemptive one and possibly even a friendly one, but a message all the same. And that message is this: you work for us. You are not a king and you will not be crowned. You will be selected.

This is sort of important to the owners, I’d assume. While Bud Selig started out on shaky ground as commissioner, he has grown into a pretty powerful force in the game. That, combined with the (mistaken) public impression that the Commissioner is baseball’s leader  and/or dictator, likely gives the owners pause. They know what the commissioner’s job really is: to work for them and to make them money and not to do things they don’t want. Maybe they worry that a guy who is not from their ranks — like Manfred — may forget that at some point. Maybe they want him to be grateful that he was chosen as opposed to feeling as if he assumed the job by divine right and Bud Selig’s grace.

And, while this three-man finalist thing may have an element of hazing to it, it may be useful all the same. Bud Selig was successful as Commissioner — with success being defined as getting done what he wanted to get done — because he never forgot who he worked for. He rarely if ever launched an initiative that he did not feel had the support of the owners and he never aired disputes publicly. To the extent commissioners have run into trouble — Fay Vincent comes to mind, but many others do too — it’s because they think they’re organizing the entire trip when they are really merely driving the bus.

I predict that Rob Manfred gets the job next week. And I think, when he accepts it, it will be with the acknowledgement that a message has been sent by the guys who really run baseball.

  1. padraighansen - Aug 6, 2014 at 12:44 PM

    I think Manfred gets the gig, but I think he would be one of the worst things that could happen to MLB. He’s got a short fuse, is a raging egomaniac, and to date, even publicly, has exhibited a bit of a “God Complex”. There’s going to be a potentially contentious labor negotiation in a few years, and, although I know he’s been part of the labor negotiations previously (and is a Labor attorney by trade), MLB cannot afford to screw this up. If I’m the owners, the last guy I want heading up my organization in a time like this is someone who embodies a “scorched earth” strategy to everything. In short, he’s a hammer, and everything he sees tends to look like a nail. Not the traits you’re looking for in a Chief Executive.

    • mybrunoblog - Aug 6, 2014 at 3:47 PM

      Wow. Way to give a guy a chance.

    • natstowngreg - Aug 6, 2014 at 4:07 PM

      Matt Bonesteel of The Washington Post has a piece, citing other reports on the situation. Part of the holdup on Manfred appears to come from the faction that wants a “scorched earth” approach to the next CBA negotiation. The faction that wants a Chief Executive as a “hammer” to beat down the MLBPA “nail.” The faction behind the 1994-95 lockout.

      I agree that the approach of Reinsdorf & Co.–trying again to crush the players’ union–is bad for MLB. We’ll see whether they have enough clout to get the commissioner they want. If they do, we can count down to the next lockout.

  2. bklynbaseball - Aug 6, 2014 at 12:45 PM

    See, this is why I like to read your stuff. Intelligent, insightful commentary. Totally concur. Hope you’re doing well, Craig, and I hope you remember who this is……

  3. nottinghamforest13 - Aug 6, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    Note that not a single one of the candidates is a man of colour.

    • mikhelb - Aug 6, 2014 at 3:44 PM

      Wrong! During winter we are blue, during the summer we are red, if we asphixiate for a bit we are purple, if we hit a part of our bodies it gets green-purple-blackish, if we get hepatitis we are yellow, if we get varicella we get covered in many small red dots, same colour our nose gets when we drink alcohol… as a matter of fact we white people come in many colours.

      • ltzep75 - Aug 6, 2014 at 5:17 PM

        When I’m in one of my heavy drinking stages, I also am a bit of yellow.

    • mybrunoblog - Aug 6, 2014 at 3:50 PM

      If there was a non white candidate they wanted they’d hire him in a minute. It just turned out the guy(s) they want are white. That said, do you won’t a dog and pony show of some minority interviews done just for show? You know, the ones where the candidate has no hope of getting the job and he even knows it. Yeah, that’s progress.

      • philipharmonic - Aug 6, 2014 at 5:28 PM

        why is the Selig Rule good for managers and GMs, but doesn’t apply to the Commish’s office? What’s good for the goose ought to be good for gander.

        “” … It would come to be known as the “Selig Rule,” and it required every club to consider minority candidates “for all general manager, assistant general manager, field manager, director of player development and director of scouting positions.”

        In addition, Selig asked clubs to provide him a list of their openings and to include a list of candidates, including minority candidates, to be interviewed.””

    • 4Q - Aug 9, 2014 at 4:14 AM

      But at least they are strongly considering a Christian (assuming Manfred is Christian)..

  4. philliesblow - Aug 6, 2014 at 1:50 PM

    Is it just me, or does Manfred look like former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel?

  5. mvp43 - Aug 6, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    He looks like Putin.

  6. therealdave123 - Aug 6, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    1. Because Selig does not get to appoint his successor, owners need to vote thus that is why there is more than one candidate, 2. there are already reports of a small uprising amongst the owners that do not want Manfred aka Selig Jr.

    • mikhelb - Aug 6, 2014 at 3:49 PM

      He doesn’t appoint his successor, but he does get to appoint the group of people who vote and decide who will be his successor.

      • Paper Lions - Aug 6, 2014 at 5:40 PM

        No he doesn’t.

        Selig has no say in the matter. The commissioner works for the owners, and each owner gets a say in who the next commissioner is.

  7. Caught Looking - Aug 6, 2014 at 2:40 PM

    There is more than one reason why it’s called The Show

  8. mikhelb - Aug 6, 2014 at 3:36 PM

    “If Rob Manfred is Bud Selig’s heir apparent, why are there three finalists?”

    That’s the same thing millions of persons say every presidential election in **insert name of a country**.

  9. jaturso - Aug 6, 2014 at 4:16 PM

    For the same reason Vladimir Putin had to have an “opponent” in the election in Russia.

    • jaturso - Aug 6, 2014 at 4:17 PM

      I should have typed ‘”election’ in Russia.”

  10. DJ MC - Aug 6, 2014 at 7:59 PM

    Brosnan seems like an interesting candidate on his own. Lawyer with DC connections, came up through the MLB ranks, and has overseen all MLB business operations for 15 years which likely means he can take some credit for the money flowing into MLB over that period.

    If some of the owners really don’t want Selig’s pick in the office–probably the ones pushing for Warner, who is Seligesque in his own right–Brosnan might be an interesting compromise candidate a la Roger Goodell, with whom he shares some similarities.

  11. 4Q - Aug 9, 2014 at 5:07 AM

    The MLB commissioner is responsible for running an enterprise with close to $8 Billion in revenues and Rob Manfred doesn’t have a business background. Like many of the owners, Tom Werner is an entrepreneur. Plus, and a big plus, he has a very successful background in television and broadcasting. The MLB contracts with TV and cable will balloon to a worth of almost $1 Billion. The TV/cable revenues are pure gravy train profit $$$ and it’s the moola that pays the bills. It kind of makes sense to me the owners would give a guy that knows that end of the business serious consideration. The baseball business is entertainment and Werner is a savvy promoter of entertainment. From what I’ve read Manfred can be kind of pompous. Werner is guaranteed the Jewish vote (guessing 9? of the 30), guaranteed John Henry plus he’ll get a lot of votes because of his business background. My money is on Werner.

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