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Commissioner’s race thrown into tumult, as some owners back Werner

MLBThe emergence of Tom Werner as a candidate has thrown next week’s decision by MLB owners on a new commissioner into disarray, as Rob Manfred faces competition from the Boston Red Sox chairman.

There are three influential owners — White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, Red Sox owner John Henry and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim owner Arte Moreno — who oppose Manfred as the new commissioner. Of the three, it’s most notable that Reinsdorf, once a close confidante of outgoing commissioner Bud Selig and perhaps the owner most responsble for transforming Selig from an interim commissioner to a permanent one, has had a falling out with Selig and refuses to back Selig’s hand-picked successor, Manfred. 

Hence the emergence of Werner as a candidate. Now, on the one hand, Werner has television experience (albeit decades ago) and there’s no doubt the Boston Red Sox are among the top teams on the financial front. But his time as owner of the San Diego Padres wasn’t particularly distinguished on any level (let’s just call it a starter marriage), and it doesn’t sound like the search committee was particularly impressed during an interview last month. (Also interviewed: the Rays’ Stuart Sternberg and the Brewers’ Mark Attanasio, as well as Manfred and Tim Brosnan, the other two finalists for the position.) From The New York Times:

Brosnan, who is not nearly as close with Selig as Manfred is, made it on the ballot because of his experience securing lucrative television and sponsorship deals for baseball, and he made a pitch to owners that the sport needed to concentrate on expanding its fan base. Brosnan has a long history with baseball, having played it for four years at Georgetown….

During Selig’s two decades as commissioner, Reinsdorf benefited significantly from their close relationship; Selig put Reinsdorf on his executive board and gave lucrative contracts to companies he owned.

But in a twist worthy of Shakespeare, Reinsdorf turned on Selig this year. Reinsdorf told other owners that Selig, who has said that he is not supporting a candidate, should not play a role in picking his successor because he had no ownership in the game going forward and had not been transparent as commissioner. Electing Manfred, Reinsdorf said, would only continue that trend.

The vote is scheduled for the quarterly owners’ meetings on Aug. 14. It will be a key decision, of course, and one to set the tone for how baseball operates the next 20 years. Manfred is credited as being a big part of MLB’s business growth under Selig: there’s peace on the player front, baseball revenues have never been higher, and media revenue in terms of TV contracts and MLBAM cash. He’s also seen as being relatively above owner politics. Reinsdorf, Henry and Moreno are certainly the old guard among baseball owners and all have some selfish reasons to oppose Manfred: Reinsdorf wants to maintain his influence in the commissioner’s office, Henry wants to see more TV revenue remain with his team, and Moreno wants to see a more confrontation approach to players the next time a labor contract is negotiated.


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