Candidates make their case for commissioner

Candidates make their case for commissioner
August 13, 2014, 7:45 pm
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BALTIMORE -- A week ago, it seemed the very reason for Tom Werner's candidacy to become baseball's next commissioner was to create a "brokered convention'' as owners gather here to choose Bud Selig's successor.

In keeping with the political metaphor, the hope Wednesday was that the owners could avoid gridlock when it comes time to take a vote Thursday.

St. Louis Cardinals chiarman Bill DeWitt, head of the search committee, said late Wednesday that he was "optimistic'' that the owners would settle on a candidate before departing late Thursday afternoon. In recent days, there has been increased speculation that no candidate would garner the necessary 23 votes -- or three quarters out of 30 -- to win on the first ballot of subsequent ballots.

Werner and the other candidates for the office -- Rob Manfred and Tim Brosnan -- each made their presentations to the owners Wednesday.

Werner, speaking briefly with reporters are the meeting adjourned, said he thought his own presentation "went well,'' but declined further comment.

The three will meet again Thursday morning and answer questions from owners, who will be broken up into groups of ten. Voting will take place shortly after.

In the last week, since Werner was first announced as a finalist, his presence on the ballot has surprised many throughout the industry.

For one thing, as recently as last month, Werner told the Boston Globe that he had no interest in the position.

For another, Werner has never exerted his influence or assume a profile to match that of principal owner John Henry or CEO Larry Lucchino.

But more than anything, some are puzzled by the odd alliance Werner has formed with Chicago White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and Los Angeles Angels CEO Arte Moreno.

Both Reinsdorf and Moreno are known to be labor hawks who believe that Selig and Manfred -- baseball's chief operating officer, who has had a big hand in negotiating the last three collective bargaining agreements -- have been too soft with the Players Association and are urging a far tougher stance when the next CBA is negotiated in another 15 months.

The Red Sox, however, have never been portrayed as hard-liners when it comes to labor.

They are, however, known to be upset with Selig (and, presumably, Manfred's) efforts to lift the appraisal of NESN and its value to the franchise, which would result in additional revenue sharing fees for the Red Sox.

Werner's willingness to run as the behest of those opposing Manfred -- Selig's clear choice as his successor after 22 years in office -- is all the more strange since the Red Sox ownership troika was put together by Selig in 2001.

Selig helped engineer a deal in which the Henry-Werner-Lucchino group bought the team from the Yawkey Estate for $660 million (and the assumption of another $40 million in debt), even though other bids were said to be nearly $100 million more.

Now, a dozen years later, as Selig's term winds down -- he'll leave office in January -- the very trio that he helped form is seeking to deny him the final act of his legacy.

Werner's background as a television producer is said to be one of his selling points, given the increasing importance of TV, both locally and nationally.

He's also said to have scored points with the search committee by stressing the need for the sport to grow its fan base among younger sports consumers, many of whom regard baseball as slow and unexciting.

It seems highly unlikely that Werner could amass 23 votes in Thursday's voting. But Manfred's supporters concede that he is still a few votes shy of the three quarters margin necessary, lending credence to the theory that, with no clear front-runner, baseball could settle on a compromise candidate or postpone the votes until the next quarterly meeting.