Analyzing Who Could Succeed Bud Selig as MLB Commissioner Enters Final Season
The ninth person to take on the job in MLB's long and storied history, Selig has handled the role since 1992 and will turn 80 years old in July. If this is his last year, Selig—who's been known to change his mind about retirement in the past—will have served for 23 seasons in the same capacity, which is the second-longest tenure ever, behind only Kenesaw Mountain Landis' term from 1921 to 1944.
"This is definitely it," Selig told Jayson Stark of ESPN in January. "I'm more comfortable today than I was when I [announced] it in October, if that's possible. Jan. 24, 2015, is it. And I'm very comfortable with that. I'm done."
While Selig has had his share of ups (i.e. record attendance figures) and downs (read: the steroid era), he'll be remembered for his progressive approach toward growing the sport into a multi-billion dollar industry that has never been more popular than it is today.
As Selig enjoys the 2014 Opening Day—potentially his final one in office—here are some candidates who could step to the plate starting in 2015.
Rob Manfred, MLB Chief Operating Officer
After 15 years as MLB's executive vice president of labor relations, a role in which he helped spearhead the collective bargaining agreements in 2002, 2006 and 2011, Rob Manfred was named as the league's COO last September.
That put Manfred in position as Selig's right-hand man and perhaps made him the front-runner to succeed the current commish at season's end. At the time of Manfred's promotion, Maury Brown of the Biz of Baseball wrote:
In making the promotion now, it makes it pretty obvious that Manfred is either "the guy" or at worst, a candidate on a short list. If Manfred is being picked by Selig as the guy he wants to see succeed him, he has 15 months to work the phones as only Selig can to ensure that the vote isn’t just the minimum 75 percent of the owners, but a unanimous vote.
The expectation is that the next commissioner will be someone who is and has been a central figure in the sport for the past several years, and Manfred fits that bill.
Joe Torre, MLB Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations
Following a successful 18-year career as a player, Joe Torre spent 29 more seasons as a manager—including 12 with the New York Yankees, with whom he won four World Series championships. The recently elected Hall of Famer is now a key figure in Selig's stable of decision-makers and has been instrumental in shepherding in change, namely the expanded instant replay system that begins in 2014.
Last October, the 73-year-old Torre told CBS New York:
If they ask me to do something for the game, I certainly would listen. But I have no aspiration to be commissioner, based on my age. It’s just reality. I’m very comfortable working there, I have a significant job, and I don’t have a great deal of stress in my job. That feels pretty good.
As someone who's been involved in the sport one way or another for more than 50 years, Torre may be the best option if the search for a long-term solution requires a shorter-term answer in the interim.
Sandy Alderson, New York Mets General Manager
One of the more respected baseball men around, Sandy Alderson is the current GM for the New York Mets, a role he also handled for the Oakland Athletics from the early 1980s into the late 1990s. The 66-year-old, who also was an executive with the San Diego Padres during the aughts, worked closely with Selig when he served as MLB's VP of baseball operations (Torre's current role) from 1998 through 2005.
That's part of the reason why Alderson's name has come up as a candidate to step in after Selig departs.
Thing is, Alderson may want to continue with the Mets for another two or three seasons to play out the franchise's rebuilding process that he's undertaken since the end of the 2010 season, writes Mike Puma of the New York Post.
While Alderson's contract with the Mets is up after 2014, there is an option for another year that is likely to be effected.
Dave Dombrowski, Detroit Tigers President, CEO and General Manager
Dave Dombrowski has been in baseball for more than 35 years. That's pretty impressive considering he's only 56 years old. To further put that into context, he became general manager of the Montreal Expos back in 1988 at age 31—the youngest in the sport at the time.
From there, he went on to become the GM of the Florida Marlins in the early 1990s and then with the Detroit Tigers—his current role—in 2002. In his time with those franchises, Dombrowski helped build both into World Series contenders.
As Gabe Lacques of USA Today writes, Dombrowski is "the perfect frontman for baseball. He is intelligent, is a tremendous speaker and never lets emotions get in the way. In that fashion, he might be the Derek Jeter of baseball execs."
Fitting, considering that Selig and Jeter are both embarking on their final seasons.
William DeWitt Jr., St. Louis Cardinals Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Bill DeWitt Jr. has been the majority owner of the St. Louis Cardinals since 1995, but his involvement in the sport as a whole goes well beyond that. A quick glance at his bio proves as much:
[DeWitt is] a member of the Major League Baseball Executive Council, the Board of Major League Baseball Advanced Media, the Ownership Committee, the Diversity Committee, and the Commissioner's Special Committee for On-Field Matters. He also serves on the board of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
That's a man with a lot of baseball on his resume, and he acknowledged to Rob Rains of StL Sports Page that he's heard his name mentioned recently as a potential candidate to be the next commissioner. That doesn't mean he'll be leaving his current post any time soon, though.
"I have read that once or twice, but I am not a candidate," DeWitt said. "I'm real happy with the Cardinals. It’s flattering for someone to mention it, but I think what I am doing now is what I love doing."
Mark Attanasio, Milwaukee Brewers Owner
Since the start of 2005, Mark Attanasio has been the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers. In that time, he's put money into the club and turned the franchise around after a more than a decade of losing seasons from 1993 through 2004.
Attanasio might be a bit under the radar for MLB's top position, according to Bob Wolfley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who references a recent Sports Business Journal podcast on the topic of candidates to be considered.
Still, at 56, Attanasio is one of the young possibilities, and it's worth remembering: The current commish was also once part of the Brewers ownership.
George W. Bush, Former President of the United States and Texas Rangers Owner
This one is sure to elicit some strong feelings given his reputation and political background. Whatever your leanings, though, before George W. Bush was the 43rd president of the United States, he was a baseball owner and remains a lover of the game.
Here's Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports on Bush:
He once owned the Texas Rangers. He has expressed interest in the job in the past. He did run the entire country for eight years. And best of all, the worst war he could wage is in the labor department, so that's a step up.
That Bush is no longer in the baseball industry and could be seen as a divisive choice may work against him, but the 67-year-old has been mentioned in the mix.
Bob Costas, Broadcaster and MLB Network Host
An Emmy Award-winning broadcaster who has been a part of living rooms across America for decades as a voice and face of baseball, Bob Costas would be an even more outside-the-box option.
As Jayson Stark of ESPN wrote last May:
You can forget people like Bob Costas...or any other sports-media giant, popular as those choices might be with the masses. This sport is looking for a CEO, not a guy who can turn a phrase. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
But because of his familiarity with the sport—as well as the public's familiarity with him—the 62-year-old Costas at least merits some consideration.