Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Allan Selig has announced his retirement from the position that he has held atop the baseball world for 22 years, effective in January, 2015. This is not the first time Selig has announced his retirement, but each previously planned retirement was set aside by club owners convincing him to stay on the job. Observers believe that this time, however, he's quitting for keeps.
This time, the 79 year old Selig has appointed a search committee of seven owners, to find and nominate his successor. It is widely reported that Selig's hand picked successor would be Selig's deputy and MLB's chief negotiator, Executive VP Rob Manfred.
A report in the New York Times has indicated that Manfred might not be a slam dunk to succeed Selig. According to the Times, there is some resistance coming from Chicago White Sox owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, who has been a long time ally of Selig. In fact, it was Reinsdorf who led the charge along with Selig to oust his predecessor, Commissioner Fay Vincent in 1992.
Selig, at the time owner of the Milwaukee Brewers and chairman of baseball's executive council, became the acting Commissioner once Vincent was out of the way. Selig had been the chair of a search committee to replace Commissioner Bowie Kuhn with Peter Ueberroth in 1984, and was again the chairman of a search committee to replace Vincent, but the owners could not agree on a new Commissioner. After years of haggling, the owners unanimously elected Selig as the permanent Commissioner in 1998.
Selig has sworn that he never wanted the job of Commissioner, and each time he has been extended, he swears that he still does not want the job. Some 22 years later, he is still saying he wants to retire, and the owners clearly would keep him on as long as he wants to stay, but there are rumblings of discontent about how his successor is being chosen.
According to the Times report, Selig attempted to keep the search committee a secret, but was forced to announce it's existence when word leaked out to the press. According to the report, other candidates being considered include:
- San Francisco Giants' president and CEO Larry Baer
- Atlanta Braves chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk
- Detroit Tigers' President and General Manager, Dave Dombrowski
- Tim Brosnan and Bob Bowman, executives in the Commissioner's office
Reinsdorf knows Dombrowski very well since his days in Chicago. Ironically, or perhaps not, the 57 year old Dombrowski began his career in Major League baseball with the White Sox organization, ascending to Assistant General Manager until he was ousted during the short lived reign of Ken Harrelson. He moved on to the Montreal Expos and became their General Manager, eventually moving from there to the Florida Marlins where he won the World Series in 2001, and then to the Tigers where the club has finished in first place three consecutive seasons for the first time in over 100 years.
For his part, Dombrowski says that he is flattered to be considered, but will not speculate on whether Selig will actually retire, much less who could be selected to replace him.
Club owners credit Selig for growing Major League Baseball revenues from under $ 1.5 billion in 1994, to over $ 8 billion in 2013, and they all share in the profits. During Selig's tenure, he has overseen some remarkable changes in what is considered a very traditional game.
Those changes on Selig's watch, including time as acting commissioner, include:
- Introduction of Interleague play
- Implementation of the Luxury Tax and Revenue Sharing
- Cancellation of the 1994 World Series
- Suspension of Marge Schott and reinstatement of George Steinbrenner
- Abolition of American and National league offices, merging under the office of Commissioner
- Implementation of drug testing for players
- Expansion of two teams in Arizona and Tampa Bay
- Relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington DC
- Threatened contraction of the Expos and Minnesota Twins, which was canceled
- Realignment into three divisions in each league
- Addition of wild card playoff teams
- The Milwaukee Brewers moving to the National League
- The Houston Astros moving to the American League
- Bankruptcy and sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers
- Bankruptcy and sale of the Texas Rangers
- 20 new baseball stadiums built, and others renovated
- Introduction of a hard slotting bonus system for players selected in the amateur draft
- Implementation and expansion of Instant replay
One thing that Selig would dearly love before he retires is the introduction of a draft for international players, but the players' association has resisted that plan. It looks as though that will be on the bargaining table at the next round of talks for a new collective bargaining agreement in 2016.
As the chief negotiator for the owners, Manfred has developed an understanding with the players that is credited for 20 years of labor peace, but Reinsdorf is said by the Times to prefer a negotiator who will take a harder stance with the players' union. Whether Reinsdorf, who is on the search committee, is advocating for Dombrowski, or anyone else in particular, is not known.
The players are now on board with the drug testing regime that has been adopted, and Manfred led the investigation into the Biogenesis scandal which led to the suspension of Alex Rodriguez and a dozen other players including former Tiger shortstop Jhonny Peralta. From a fans' perspective, continued labor peace is a good thing, and anything that would result in another lockout or strike would not be good.