Major League Baseball owners have not had to worry about electing a new commissioner since 1992, when Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig was named on an interim basis to succeed the ousted Fay Vincent.
Six years later, Selig was named to baseball’s top post on a full-time basis, continuing a reign that would see him serve in office more than 22 years until his announced retirement date of Jan. 24, 2015. After accepting two extensions that he previously vowed he wouldn’t take, Selig made it clear he meant business this time to retire.
After a brief search for candidates by an ownership committee, three finalists were named as possible successors to Selig: MLB executives Rob Manfred and Tim Brosnan, and Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner. Owners are scheduled to vote for the new commissioner Thursday at their quarterly meetings in Baltimore.
A candidate needs 23 of 30 votes to be elected commissioner, and at one time Manfred was considered the presumptive future leader of MLB. But recent reports have indicated a push is being made within ownership to get Werner elected, or at the very least to command enough votes to block Manfred.
Selig envisioned a peaceful and united transition to his No. 2 man, much as the NBA achieved with Adam Silver replacing David Stern earlier this year. But, apparently, owners such as the Chicago White Sox’s Jerry Reinsdorf, the Los Angeles’ Angels Arte Moreno and Toronto’s Paul Beeston have other ideas.
Those owners and others reportedly believe Manfred has given too many concessions to the players union during labor negotiations, ignoring the positive impact of prolonged labor peace in a sport once torn apart by bitter fighting between owners and players. They also reportedly want to fire a shot across Manfred’s bow, should he go on to be elected, by reminding him that he would work for them.
Selig responded to those reports of infighting among owners last week with a statement saying, in part, “I have not promoted individual candidates.” He also said, “Reports of personal animosity between Jerry Reinsdorf and me — or any other alleged disputes between owners regarding the process or the candidates — are unfounded and unproductive.”
If a candidate is unable to achieve the necessary 23 votes for election the first time around, it is not clear how owners will proceed. They could eliminate one of the candidates and vote again for the other two. Or they could table the matter for a future meeting while exploring other candidates.
The candidates were scheduled to make oral presentations to the owners on Wednesday.
Beyond Manfred, Brosnan and Werner, others interviewed for the position included Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, Tampa Bay owner Stuart Sternberg and Bob Bowman, president and CEO of MLB Advanced Media.
Here is a look at the three finalists and their backgrounds:
As major league baseball’s chief operating officer, Manfred is the No. 2 man to Selig in the MLB hierarchy. He has been the front man in labor negotiations with the Major League Baseball Players Association, resulting in a much-needed and prolonged period of labor peace following the destructive strike of 1994-’95. As an offshoot of that relationship, Manfred also negotiated baseball’s drug-testing program with the union.
Before being named baseball’s COO on Sept. 28, 2013, Manfred served for 15 years as executive vice president of labor relations, leading negotiations that resulted in new collective bargaining agreements in 2002, 2006 and 2011. Along the way, he carried out Selig’s vision of creating competitive balance among the 30 teams and financial stability through such reforms as increased revenue sharing, taxes on excessive payrolls, reform of the amateur draft and strict debt regulation. Having done all the “wet work” in often contentious negotiating with the union, Manfred knows where all of baseball’s skeletons are buried, which might concern some owners.
Manfred, 55, has a legal background, serving as a partner in the Labor and Employment Law Section of a Washington, D.C., law firm prior to entering baseball. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell and a law degree from Harvard.
Brosnan also works for the commissioner’s office, as executive vice president for business, a position he filled in February 2000. In that role, he has been responsible for increasingly lucrative national television deals for the sport as well as a vast array of sponsorship deals. Known as a keen business mind with a knack for marketing, Brosnan is responsible for recent innovations such as the MLB Fan Cave.
Brosnan, 56, also oversees the game’s licensing, domestic and international broadcasting, special events and MLB Productions. He joined the commissioner’s office in 1991 as vice president of international business affairs, and was promoted three years later to COO of MLB International. Later he became senior vice president of domestic and international properties.
Before joining MLB, Brosnan was appointed to the New York State Commission on Government Integrity by Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1987. Two years later, he was appointed counsel to the Chairman for that commission. He earned a BA from Georgetown, where he was a captain of the baseball team, and a JD from Fordham University School of Law.
Werner, 64, is chairman of the Boston Red Sox and a former television producer of TV blockbusters such as “Roseanne,” “The Cosby Show” and “That ’70s Show.” While an executive for ABC in the 1970s, he helped develop shows such as “Mork & Mindy,” “Bosom Buddies” and “Soap.” In 1996, he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. He was one of the investors in Oprah Winfrey’s 24-hour cable channel Oxygen.
Werner had a notoriously unsuccessful run as general managing partner of the San Diego Padres from 1990-’94, during which the club neared bankruptcy and payroll was slashed by selling off high-paid players. With Selig’s blessing, Werner got a second chance by joining primary owner John Henry and Larry Lucchino in 2001 to purchase the Red Sox, getting back in the game with one of baseball’s iconic franchises. His primary responsibilities include the team’s deal with regional TV power NESN and its charitable foundation.
Werner has the support of various influential owners who prefer that the new commissioner come from their ranks, as did Selig. Werner’s son, Teddy, is vice president of business operations for the Milwaukee Brewers. Werner has an English degree from Harvard.