Today owners of the 30 Major League Baseball teams elected MLB's Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred as baseball's 10th commissioner, according to Jon Heyman and others. He was selected over Red Sox president Tom Werner and MLB executive vice-president Tim Brosnan, who removed his name from consideration before the first ballot was taken.
Manfred received 22 of the necessary 23 votes for election on the first ballot, according John Heyman and others, with Werner receiving the other eight votes. The second ballot was reportedly the same. Manfred appears to have been elected on the third ballot.
Manfred's election will be seen as a "win" for outgoing commissioner Bud Selig. Manfred had been considered Selig's "right-hand man" at least since former MLB COO Bob DuPuy was fired in 2010. When Selig promoted Manfred to the same position last year, it was widely seen as Selig's endorsement of Manfred as his successor.
Manfred, 55, was a lawyer specializing in labor law when he was brought in to MLB during the 1994 strike as an outside counsel. He was hired full-time by MLB in 1998 as executive vice-president of labor relations. In that role, he successfully negotiated new collective bargaining agreements with the Players Association in 2002, 2006 and 2011. He accomplished all of this without a strike, and no CBA before 2002 had ever be agreed to without some sort of work stoppage. He also played a major role in the recent investigation of the Biogenesis scandal and has worked with the players to get drug testing and to increase penalties for offenders. Additionally, he helped craft the rules on revenue sharing among the teams as well as the debt service rules for franchises. Manfred was also Selig's "hatchet man" who devised a way to force former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt out of the game.
This selection means to not expect any major changes in the way that baseball is being run. Manfred will certainly differ from Selig in terms of style (Manfred is a New England lawyer and not a Milwaukee car dealer), but he has been involved in every major decision that Selig has made in recent years. His election signals that the owners are happy with the state of the sport.
It may sound odd to say this, but the election of Selig's right-hand man who is expected to continue his policies is a good thing, because the alternative was Boston Red Sox team president Tom Werner, whose candidacy was being pushed by a group of hard-line owners led by White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. These owners felt that Manfred had been too conciliatory to the union and they wanted someone who would press the Players Association for more concessions in the next collective bargaining negotiations. While Reinsdorf and his allies claim otherwise, such a stance would surely risk a return to the labor wars of 1969 to 1995, which of course resulted in the cancellation of the 1994 World Series, among other things.
Chief among Manfred's concerns will be reaching a new collective bargaining agreement, as the current one expires after the 2016 season. Before that, his agenda will likely include expanding the game internationally and cracking down on performance-enhancing drugs. Then there are the difficult issues of television broadcast rights, which includes blackouts and the current legal war between the Orioles and Nationals. and finding new stadiums for the Athletics and Rays. In both of those area, however, Manfred has not been given any magic pixie dust that Selig did not have access to. Those issues are likely to vex Manfred as much as they did Selig.
While there are certainly problems with the sport both currently and on the horizon, the business of baseball has never been healthier than it is at the moment. The election of Rob Manfred to commissioner means that we can all carry on as we have been and that, by and large, is a good thing.