Kenesaw Mountain Landis is remembered for throwing out the Black Sox, Ford Frick for an asterisk, and Bowie Kuhn for squabbles with players and owners.
A. Bartlett Giamatti ran Pete Rose out of baseball, Fay Vincent suspended George Steinbrenner, and Bud Selig presided over the cancellation of a World Series, supersized Steroids Era sluggers, increasingly strong drug-testing agreements, and instant replay to aid umpires.
Minutes after he was elected baseball’s 10th commissioner, Rob Manfred didn’t want to discuss what great issues he expects to take on when he succeeds Selig on Jan. 25.
“I really don’t want to get too deeply today into agendas,” he said Thursday after winning a three-way race.
Others speculated the length of games will be a top priority.
Some pitchers step on and off the rubber so much you’d think they were on a StairMaster, and hitters move in and out of the batter’s box as if they were rhythm gymnasts. All the pausing and preening – along with the expanded use of relief pitchers – has led to the average time of a nine-inning game expanding 30 minutes since 1981 to 3:03.
“That’s going to be toward the top of his list, I would think,” San Francisco Giants President Larry Baer said. “I’m not going to comment specifically on pitch clock. I think that’s one of several ideas. Every candidate talked about it, and every owner wants it. Obviously, there will need to be player input.”
Since taking over following Vincent’s forced resignation in 1992, Selig mostly built consensus before announcing decisions. That deliberate decision-making ended public bickering among owners but also led to lengthy discussions prior to changes.
Several issues remain unresolved and could be passed along to Manfred, who under the Major League Constitution will receive a term of at least three years.
– The Oakland Athletics’ hope to build a ballpark in San Jose, California – territory of the San Francisco Giants – remains stalled in a study committee that was appointed in March 2009. San Jose filed an antitrust suit against Major League Baseball, and many of its claims were rejected by a U.S. District Judge. The city has asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse.
– The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, controlled by the Baltimore Orioles, obtained a temporary restraining order in its fight with the Washington Nationals, who want a higher broadcast rights fee.
– The Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros have limited distribution for their regional sports networks in disputes with cable providers.
– Rose’s petition to end his lifetime ban – filed in 1997 – has never been decided on.
The 55-year-old Manfred, who has worked for MLB in roles with ever-increasing authority since 1998, dealt with two of baseball’s more difficult issues in recent years: efforts to force out then-owner Frank McCourt during the Dodgers’ bankruptcy proceedings in 2012, and the MLB’s Biogenesis drug investigation last year that led to the suspensions of Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and a dozen others.
He probably can’t predict upcoming controversies. Could new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver have foreseen the need to ban Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life for making derogatory remarks about blacks? Could NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have anticipated the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal?
Manfred also will have to lead baseball as a chief executive officer in age in which technology is disrupting established models at a rapid rate.
“The job is much more complicated,” Baer said. “Now you’re in a 500-channel universe and you’re on the Internet and you’re communicating to people that are walking down the street consuming baseball.”