A generation of fans, players, and front office personnel have only known one commissioner. Bud Selig has been in office for two decades, longer than anyone since the sport’s first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis.
But at some point, MLB will name a successor to Selig, the car salesman turned team owner turned baseball boss. His contract expires following the 2014 season, and while he could sign yet another extension, someone will have to succeed him eventually. So who will it be? Before we attempt to answer that question, let’s establish some background:
The Commissioner’s Role
The commissioner represents the interests of baseball’s 30 owners and should create fan interest, grow the sport worldwide, and manage everything from labor relations to multimedia ventures. Perhaps most importantly, the commissioner should generate revenue and boost franchise values for owners.
Selig’s MLB.com bio points out that revenues “have increased more than five-fold, from $1.2 billion in 1992 [when Selig started] to the $7.0 billion mark in both 2010 and 2011.” Based on these figures alone, it’s no surprise MLB owners are happy with Selig’s work.
Fans tend to view the commissioner as someone with unrivaled power, and it's a view former commissioner Bowie Kuhn encouraged. "The commissioner exists to tell the owners what to do and not the other way around," he wrote in his autobiography Hardball.
But Marvin Miller, the longtime executive director of the MLB Players Association, saw things differently. In Miller’s 1991 autobiography, A Whole Different Ball Game: The Inside Story of the Baseball Revolution, he explained his interpretation of the power structure within baseball.
“It would probably shock some of the most avid baseball fans to learn that commissioners are hired by the owners, that no one else has a voice in the process, that owners determine his duties and responsibilities, and that they decide his compensation and pay every penny of it,” Miller wrote. “The owners decide whether the commissioner is representing their interests, and their interests alone, in a satisfactory manner.”
Yet Miller wrote his book before Selig’s 20-year reign began and the dynamic seems different today. Selig, the former owner of the Brewers, hardly seems to be at the mercy of the sport’s current owners, though they’re technically his employers.
Selig's greatest strength is his ability to build consensus for ownership, a task that sounds easier than it is considering the assortment of individual owners and corporations whose reputations and finances are at stake. By all accounts baseball's owners get along far better than they did two decades ago, and it'll be a bonus for owners if Selig's successor shares his knack for creating unity.
Don’t Bother Applying
MLB owners can be expected to favor candidates with experience in labor relations. But don’t expect management to hire someone from ‘the other side’ as Selig’s successor. For a time, Jeff Moorad was on track to become the Padres’ next owner, but the former agent seemed to have trouble winning the trust of others in management and he has since dropped his application to become the team’s controlling partner. If MLB owners are uncomfortable admitting a former agent into their exclusive club, you can bet they aren’t going to choose someone with too many ties to the players as their most powerful public advocate. Agents, MLBPA execs and others who seem to side with labor need not apply.
Some Names To Consider
Rob Manfred, MLB's executive VP Labor Relations, manages the relationship between teams and players for baseball's owners. The Harvard Law graduate knows the economics of the game as well as anyone — after all, he has helped shape them through collective bargaining with the MLBPA.
Andy MacPhail, a longtime executive with the Twins, Cubs and Orioles, also worked toward the 2006 CBA. His family has a long history of representing teams, which could earn him points with some tradition-bound owners. His father, Hall of Famer Lee MacPhail, worked for the Yankees and Orioles before becoming the president of the American League. His grandfather, Hall of Famer Larry MacPhail, was the general manager for the Reds and Brooklyn Dodgers and president and part owner of the Yankees.
Derrick Hall's name comes up when those at the highest levels of MLB discuss successors to Selig, Yahoo's Steve Henson reported this year. Selig and those close to him like what the Diamondbacks’ president offers. “Derrick is clearly one of the best young executives we have in baseball,” White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf told Henson. “He’s one of the ones we expect to lead as time goes by.” Hall’s accessible and personable, someone who might relate well with the sport’s younger fans.
Others, such as Red Sox president Larry Lucchino, Blue Jays president Paul Beeston, Indians president Mark Shapiro, Tigers president and GM Dave Dombrowski, Mariners president Chuck Armstrong, Cubs president Theo Epstein, Dodgers CEO Stan Kasten, Braves president John Schuerholz, Phillies president David Montgomery, Mets GM Sandy Alderson, Cardinals chairman & CEO Bill DeWitt, Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd, and Pirates president Frank Coonelly could also have support around the league.
Baseball's owners could push for an outsider. They hired Peter Ueberroth, the organizer of the 1984 Olympics, as the sport's sixth commissioner in the 1980s. A similar hire remains possible if a compelling enough candidate emerges. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman worked for the NBA early in his career, so there's some precedent for top executives switching leagues.
But trying to predict the next commissioner while two-plus years remain on Selig’s contract is a little like anticipating the winner of a political election years in advance. In baseball, as in politics, there’s often a name of the moment, someone who gains momentum at precisely the right time and wins, maybe unexpectedly. Until then, fans, players and even the owners themselves are left to speculate.
Photo courtesy of US Presswire.
Oh…oh, no. Dear God no. Boston can keep him with my compliments.
I for one nominate Joe Torre
Ha.. Better off with Selig’s henchman “Yankee Bob” Watson than Torre.
Time to get a real businessman (woman) to take over, rather than the collection of buffoons the league has had ever since Bowie Kuhn left.
A rosin bag would do a better job than Bud!
I nominate Pete Rose
I wish the next commisioner would be an advocate for the fans. I truly beleive Selig is so deluded that he really beleives most fans want the All Star Game to be more than an exhibition.
Derrick Hall’s your guy then.
That’s not the commissioner’s job.
What’s the percentage they just keep it in the owners circle and turn it over to someone like Jerry Reinsdorf
D Hall as commish would help the MLB immensely. He’s done a heck of a lot for the dbacks and dbacks fans…love his FAWTSY motto, too: Find A Way To Say Yes.
Next guy can’t be much worse than Selig…
Having a (former) owner seems like a conflict of interest if they’re also unwilling to approve of someone with too many ties to players (like Moorad) to their fraternity. Someone like John Schuerholz could be a real asset to MLB…he understands where ownership and management are coming from, but garnered a lot of respect from players, fans, and his peers. That being said…we’re talking about a guy who is already over 70, and might not even have interest in the job by the time it comes open.
What about Tony LaRussa? It seams to me that a former manager that the players loved and the owners respect would be a obvious choice. He is working with MLB right now as a special consultant and has a law degree. He will be the next Commissioner of Major League Baseball in my opinion.
Torre and LaRussa are both great baseball guys, but I think the owners will be looking for someone who can provide long-term stability like Selig has done. Age precludes those two guys from fitting that profile.
Steven St Croix
Just go away bud!
Selig cheapened the game by giving us the Wild Card, the Wild Card II, interleague play, and moving the Houston Astros to the American League. I suggest we replace him with no one.
Couldn’t be worse.
Still don’t understand the Wild Card hate.
My hate for Bud Selig comes from the 2008 World Series debacle, the All Star Game, and the Steroid Scandal…
Teams that can’t even win their division should not be eligible to win the World Series!
Frank McCourt. He singlehandedly turned the Dodgers from a $400 million franchise into a $2 billion one.
i don’t really care who replaces bud as long as bud is replaced
what baseball really needs is a fans’ union and a seat at the table
during all negotiations. i’ve already got a few grievances to file
Frank McCourt. He increased the Dodgers worth by 5x the amount in just 8 years. He might need a hot new wife, first. But just imagine all the good he can do for MLB.
I like the idea of Frank Coonelly. He’s worked fro MLB before and now he is working with a low budget franchise and can see first hand the problems with baseball’s large market vs small market structure. large
I don’t care who it is as long as it is soon. We need a new MLB commissioner like we need a new president, as in three years ago. The one we have now is corrupt and destroying what he oversees.
There are going to pick a businessman because Baseball is first and foremost a business. So, he will be wired in politically, understand his priority is to serve the owners and maximize revenues, and presumably smart enough to know that throwing a bone to the fans is good PR, so long as you don’t give them anything substantive. Love for the game is going to be secondary.
A few months ago I heard a couple of people mention Mark Shapiro of Cleveland as someone who many felt could potentially be the MLB Commissioner.
Also, hasn’t Sandy Alderson always been mentioned as a leading candidate? Normally I would wave off a suggestion such as Tony La Russa, but that doesn’t seem so far fetched. Depends on whether he would want to do that.
Hasn’t George W. Bush also been mentioned?
Kasten is another name – along with Macphail, Hall, Shapiro, and Alderson – that I have heard mentioned in other circles.
I think Kasten is probably out of the hunt now. The owners would be unlikely to support removing him from the Dodgers equation since that ownership group is so new. He is the one bastion of experience and past baseball success in the leadership of that group, and a couple years will not be enough time to make owners comfortable with him moving on.
Good article. I’m always surprised when fans are surprised to find out that the commissioner works for the owners. When they talk about his responsibility to look after the “best interests of baseball,” they really mean “the best interests of of the owners.” Sometimes that interest is enlightened enough to include the best interests of the fans, sometimes not — it depends on the commissioner. So we as fans can only hope for an enlightened commissioner. Bud Selig certainly wasn’t one of those. Probably have to go back to Faye Vincent to find one.
Obama to commish, Selig to President, done deal
so a net “wash” then basically?
Sandy Alderson will be the next commissioner
As stated in the article….How can you not go wrong with John Scheurholz? the guy was one of the most respected GM’s for what he accomplished in baseball and is very well respected by owners and fans. He has my vote for sure.
Paul Beeston. Nobody smarter in baseball. Done
Andy MacPhail or Stan Kasten to me seems like someone who could fit in the long haul—both will not have yet reached 65. Age would work against John Schuerholz, who would be 74 in 2014.
Also, I wonder why the name Kim Ng has not been mentioned; she is currently the senior VP for MLB’s baseball operations, and has prior management experience with both the Yankees and Dodgers, and she would also be only 46 in 2014.
Bob Costas please.
I think Mark Shapiro would be a great candidate
MLB needs a dictator, not a politician to lead the league. The next Commissioner needs to tell the owners how to best run the league, not ask them if they approve of his moves. Real Commissioner’s like Bart Giamatti and Fay Vincent were not popular but served the league correctly.