Rob Manfred has been chosen as Major League Baseball's next commissioner, via a vote on Thursday by the owners of MLB's thirty teams. There were other candidates in the running, leading up to yesterday's vote, but by the time the ballots were cast, only one other candidate remained, Red Sox chairman Tom Werner.
Manfred has worked in the MLB offices since 1998, after previously serving as the owners' outside counsel during the labor stoppage of 1994-95. His current position is Chief Operating Officer, and he was basically Bud Selig's handpicked successor. Selig will officially step down in January.
Manfred was technically elected unanimously, with the support of all thirty owners, but on anything but a technical level, that's nonsense. Werner had 10 votes in one informal round of voting, then 8 votes in another, and then 1 vote in another (oddly enough, the final holdout was not Boston, but White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf). The "official" vote was not held until everyone had agreed to support Manfred, but that's not really the same as him being the guy everyone wanted.
It should come as no surprise that there was not authentic agreement, given that we're talking about thirty of the richest people in the country, men used to getting their way, and generally looking to do whatever they think will best allow them to get even richer.
Reinsdorf, arguably the man most responsible for the players' strike in 1994, wanted a commissioner who would take a harder line with the MLBPA, because apparently Reinsdorf isn't getting richer fast enough for his taste, despite owning not only the White Sox, but the Chicago Bulls, who have been the most profitable team in the NBA over the last 25 years. I don't know that Manfred is the best man for the job, but I do know that I'd rather have him than have Reinsdorf get his way.
Say what you will about Selig's tenure (it certainly had its good points and its bad ones), but MLB is currently riding almost two decades of labor peace, which is a long, long time in the world of American professional sports. Manfred's selection probably gives the game its best chance for continuing that labor peace, though I expect the next CBA to include some pretty knock-out, drag-down negotiations.
Because he is in many ways a continuation of Selig, it's hard for me to expect sweeping changes, but baseball must always be adjusting, at least on the margins. Three things I'd like to see MLB do:
- Increase revenue sharing: The NFL has national TV contracts, each divided in 32 equal pieces. Green Bay gets the same chunk as New York. In MLB, where local TV money is a bigger part of the picture than national TV money, you have teams like the Dodgers, getting hundreds of millions of dollars a year from local TV, while other teams get $30-40 million. That's a problem.
- Enforce rules having to do with the pace of the game: Don't let batters and pitchers stand around so much, make sure replay reviews move at a faster clip than they often have in their first year of existence, etc. I don't mind a game taking a while, but better enforcement of agreed upon rules could probably cut 15-20 minutes off the average game time.
- Give homefield advantage in the World Series to the team with the best record: Giving homefield to the league that wins the All-Star Game was a reactionary change after the embarrassment of the ASG tie in 2002. It's time to undo that shortsighted move.
There are certainly other moves that could be made to improve the game, whether we're talking about on-field play, or off-field structuring and rule-making. What changes would you like to see?