Werner hopes MLB can 'move forward' with new commissioner

Werner hopes MLB can 'move forward' with new commissioner
August 14, 2014, 6:15 pm
Share This Post

BALTIMORE -- From the beginning, Tom Werner's surprise candidacy for commissioner was an insurgent one. Late Thursday afternoon, as longshot campaigns often do, it ran up against cold, hard, mathematic reality.

Over a number of ballots -- perhaps as many as five or six -- Rob Manfred sat at the precipice of election, garnering anywhere from 20 to 22 votes, but not the 23 needed for three-quarters of the owners support.

But Bud Selig, whose expertise at consensus-building was a key to his 22-year term as baseball's second longest-serving commissioner, eventually won him the 23 votes -- and then some. At Selig's urging, eventually, the official vote was a unanimous one.

"We had quite a lengthy day, an interesting day, with a significant number of votes,'' said Selig, who will leave office in January, "There were differences of opinion, but in the end, we came together we did what we always do -- and that's do what the majority, over three-quarters, wanted.''

Though he didn't come out in support of any of three finalists -- Tim Brosnan dropped out earlier in the day before voting began -- Selig was known to favor Manfred, who was his chief lieutenant for the past decade and helped negotiate the last three collective bargaining agreement.

Werner, meanwhile, was seen as something of a stalking horse for a number of high-profile owners who had various agendas at work. Some owners also didn't like the idea of Selig's top assistant continuing his legacy while others resented the fact that Manfred -- unlike Selig or Werner -- never had an ownership stake in a club.

Ultimately, however, the numbers proved overwhelming for Werner. 

Manfred essentially had the benefit of incumbency and too few owners were willing to ignore the game's robust economic health at a time when the sports threatens to top $9 billion in annual revenues for the first time.

"Basically, it was a hard-fought contest,'' said Werner, "and Rob won. There was a unanimous vote in the end and we're all going to support him unanimously and I think the last two days have been productive because we've been able to share a number of ideas about the game and how to improve it and modernize it. I feel very good about the dialogue and the constructive discussions we had. We're going to move forward as an industry.

"Personal disappointment? I actually feel pretty great about the whole thing. I did this, really, as a way of vetting of ideas about how I think we should move the game forward and there was always a feeling that I'm doing this because I care about the game, but I care also about the Red Sox.''

Werner had stressed a number of causes in his candidacy, including making the game a more valuable TV property and attracting younger fans seemingly bored with the game's slow pace.

Some backing Werner's candidacy - led by Chicago White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf -- were urging a more hawkish approach to the next round of labor talks in 2016, feeling that MLB needed to take a more hard line with the Players Association. That, however, wasn't part of Werner's presentation to the search committee, or the owners he met with Wednesday and again Thursday morning, just prior to the first vote.

"There was a lot of support for Tom,'' said Red Sox principal owner John Henry. "I think a third of the industry really thought he was a great candidate. But in the end, we came together and all us supported Rob and we think he'll make a great commissioner.''

Henry disputed any suggestion that Werner was an anti-Manfred vessel for disaffected owners seeking a change of course.

"I think the votes that were for Tom were for Tom,'' said Henry. "There's no doubt about it -- what he presented over the last couple of days was compelling as far as his vision and I'd be surprised if Rob doesn't incorporate some of those ideas.''

Henry had objected to Selig's recent efforts to appraise NESN's annual value higher than it has been, which would have resulted in a bigger revenue sharing contribution from the Red Sox into MLB's general fund. It's unclear what Manfred's stance will be on that matter when he takes office early next year.