In case you missed Thursday’s big news, Major League Baseball has selected its new Commissioner. Rob Manfred, currently working as MLB’s Chief Operations Officers, has been selected by the owners to replace outgoing Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig. Why is Manfred’s selection so important and why is he the right man for the job?
Manfred, 55, has more than 15 years experience as MLB’s lead negotiator with the player’s union. He has played a key role in keeping the peace between the players and management since before the turn of the millenium. The current collective bargaining agreement expires in December of 2016. Manfred will be saddled with the responsibility of helping piece together a new agreement and avoiding the first work stoppage in over 20 years.
Some say a work stoppage is inevitable. But Selig’s hand-picked successor could be baseball’s best chance to avoid another black eye. The former VP of labor relations helped get previous CBAs approved in 2002, 2006, and 2011.
The current CBA isn’t without its flaws, as was evident when the Astros failed to sign top overall draft pick Brady Aiken — sighting the alleged likelihood of an elbow injury in the 17-year old left-hander’s immediate future. There were other contributing factors to Aiken’s non-deal, including the tying of hard fast dollar figures to draft picks by selection. The breakdown in negotiations by the Astros and Aiken showed that the current CBA is already outdated. Is Manfred the man who can oversee the repair of such a problem? His track record would suggest so.
With all 30 team owners participating in the selection process, Manfred finally achieved the 23 votes required for approval on approximately the sixth ballot. Manfred had to overcome a group, led by White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, supporting Red Sox part-owner Tom Werner. Reinsdorf and company eventually came around, making the vote unanimous.
Werner, 64, entered the MLB game in 1990, leading a group that purchased the San Diego Padres for $75 million. Also a television producer, Werner gave us nine seasons of Roseanne as well as the Padres’ fire sale of 1993. Werner and fellow Padres executive Larry Lucchino joined forces with John Henry to buy the Red Sox in 2002.
Manfred isn’t going to be a hard-liner against the player’s union like a former owner might have been. I think the odds of a continuing productive relationship between the players and management increase with the selection of this Commissioner.
Getting Manfred approved in Baltimore this week is a positive move for baseball. Had the owners not been able to agree on a replacement at this time, we could have been forced to stick with Bud until further notice — kind of like the time he served as “acting” Commissioner for six years.