Remington: The problems baseball’s next commissioner will face

From Alex Remington at The Hardball Times on July 16, 2014, with mention of SABR members Fay Vincent, Vince Gennaro, Ben Jedlovec, Wendy Thurm, and Jon Roegele:

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig is retiring in 2014 — and this time he probably means it. Of course, Selig is famous for saying that he won’t stay in the job and then doing the opposite. In Andrew Zimbalist’s book “In the Best Interests of Baseball,” the author notes that Selig, shortly after becoming interim commissioner in 1992, told his wife, “It’s two to four months, not more. Don’t worry about it.” He was off by only 22 years or so.

But Selig will turn 80 this month. This time everyone is taking him seriously, and people inside and outside Major League Baseball are contemplating a future with someone else in charge. Selig is the ninth commissioner in league history; only baseball’s first commissioner, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, held the job longer. Selig is the first who was a former owner and the fourth who came from within the sport, following Ford Frick and Bart Giamatti, who had been National League presidents, and Fay Vincent, who had been Giamatti’s deputy when Giamatti died of a heart attack. The next commissioner may not need to look exactly like Selig, but will need to possess some of the same gifts.

Selig had a few advantages over his predecessors. He had pre-existing relationships with other owners because he used to be one, which proved crucial. Frick was a weak commissioner, likely chosen because the owners correctly surmised that he would not attempt to exert his authority over them in the way that Judge Landis used to do. He was first and foremost a fan. Vincent was handicapped because he lacked a mandate from the beginning: Giamatti had died so suddenly that the owners did not conduct a real search for a new commissioner, and so Vincent had little sway.

Selig knew the other owners and knew exactly how to persuade them. “Bud Selig is, in fact, a remarkably talented small-group politician,” said Vincent, in a phone interview. “He’s like Rocky Marciano — he’s undefeated in the political game.”

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Originally published: July 16, 2014. Last Updated: July 16, 2014.