Major League Baseball executives Rob Manfred and Tim Brosnan are finalists to succeed the retiring Bud Selig as commissioner along with Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, according to a person familiar with the process.
Baseball owners will vote on the new commissioner next week in Baltimore, according to the person, who requested anonymity because the news hasn’t been made public. Selection of the finalists was first reported by USA Today.
Manfred, an MLB employee since 1998, was promoted last year to chief operating officer less than a week after Selig said he’d retire when his term expires in January. He’s been responsible for day-to-day management of the commissioner’s office in New York. Brosnan is MLB’s executive vice president of business, while Werner, a former television producer, has been with the Red Sox since 2002 and also serves as chairman of Liverpool Football Club of the English Premier League.
“All three candidates bring extraordinary resumes to the table, but at the end of the day Rob Manfred is probably the most suitable for the position,” said Wayne McDonnell, the academic chairman of sports management at New York University. “Manfred’s ability to maintain labor peace for two decades, his ability to navigate difficult waters with regard to drug testing and involvement in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ sale and some bankruptcy cases make him the favorite. This is a man who intimately understands the business of baseball.”
Approval from 23 of the 30 MLB owners is needed to elect a new commissioner. USA Today said a vote is set for Aug. 14.
Selig, 80, announced in September 2013 that he’ll retire on Jan. 24, 2015. He has been commissioner for 22 years, the second-longest tenure to Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who was baseball’s first commissioner from 1920 to 1944.
Selig in May formed a seven-member committee of team owners to help select his successor.
McDonnell said it makes sense for MLB to promote Manfred, following the path taken by the National Football League and National Basketball Association. The NFL in 2006 promoted Roger Goodell to succeed Paul Tagliabue, and Adam Silver was hand-picked by David Stern to take over as NBA commissioner earlier this year.
“The idea of what we’ve seen in the other leagues is let’s get someone that we universally trust, who has a proven track record and who’s willing to move the game in the same direction,” McDonnell said last night in a telephone interview.
Manfred, 55, was MLB’s executive vice president for economics and league affairs before being promoted to COO. He also spent 15 years as executive vice president of labor relations and led negotiations that resulted in new collective bargaining agreements in 2002, 2006 and 2011. As a result, he has a strong relationship with the players’ union.
Before joining MLB, Manfred, a graduate of Cornell University and Harvard Law School, was a partner in the labor and employment law section of Washington-based Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.
Brosnan, 56, joined MLB in 1991 and was promoted in February 2000 to his current position, in which he oversees all domestic and international business functions including licensing, sponsorship, broadcasting and special events.
“Brosnan cannot be overlooked because he’s the guy negotiating all the multimillion dollar TV, advertising and sponsorship deals,” McDonnell said. “And he’s the guy that’s pushing the globalization envelope better than anyone.”
Werner, the former executive producer of television shows such as “The Cosby Show” and “Roseanne,” was part of the group that bought the Red Sox for $660 million in 2002. He was asked in an interview last month with the Boston Globe whether he would want the commissioner’s job.
“Me as commissioner? No, I’m very happy as chairman of the Boston Red Sox,” he responded. “It’s been a fantastic ride.”
McDonnell said Werner probably emerged as a finalist because a contingent of owners led by Jerry Reinsdorf of the Chicago White Sox are opposed to a transition to Manfred.
“The favorite would have to be Manfred unless Jerry Reinsdorf can get about eight to 10 owners to change their minds,” said McDonnell, who created the “Business of Baseball” course at NYU.
News about the finalists came out the same day that seven south Florida men, including the owner of an anti-aging clinic linked to suspended New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, were charged with conspiring to distribute steroids to athletes.
At least 13 baseball players, including Rodriguez, were suspended last season for ties to Biogenesis of America LLC, the Miami clinic founded by Anthony Bosch.
Baseball’s battle with performance-enhancing drugs has been one of the recurring themes during Selig’s term as commissioner. Selig, who became commissioner in 1992 after the resignation of Fay Vincent, implemented U.S. professional sports’ most comprehensive drug program through collective bargaining following an era of performance-enhancing substance abuse that led to congressional inquiries.