It never did make sense that MLB owners would stop rolling around in their Egyptian cotton sheets and the game’s record $9 billion revenues long enough to go against commissioner Bud Selig’s recommendation for a successor, Rob Manfred.
There was simply too much to lose if they did.
Are you kidding? With all the momentum of the past several years, why stop on a dime, pivot and start in a new direction? Not when they already have the current route to the money-printing machine memorized like the back of a Mickey Mantle baseball card.
Baseball isn’t simply awash in cash in these last days of Selig; it’s exfoliating in it. As Manfred places his hand on a Bible, takes the oath of office and swears on the name of Judge Landis to protect this game so help him George Steinbrenner, his most important decision is whether to deliver the dough to 30 owners via Amazon drone or Brink’s armored truck.
But that’s not his only decision. Oh, no, and we’ll get to that soon enough.
Of course, the longer they debated Thursday, and the more cookies that were delivered, well, you know as well as I do that certain owners out there could—and would—screw up a two-car funeral.
So Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf worked the room to pocket enough votes to coronate Boston Red Sox owner Tom Werner, or, at the very least, block Manfred. It was the last gasp of a Chicago dinosaur who has watched the political times change, frowning all the way.
The key is this: Long gone are the days when owners lorded over the players’ union. That idea is as anachronistic as silent films and old Comiskey Park.
In no small part because of Manfred, we’ve all seen labor peace long enough now to understand that things work better for everyone when owners and the players’ union engage in a true partnership.
That, in a nutshell, is why Thursday was a very good day for baseball.
Here’s the bottom line where Manfred is concerned: He’s gone 3-for-3 in the past three labor negotiations (2002, 2006, 2011), bringing them home without a strike or a lockout. That ’02 deal was the first in more than 30 years that was negotiated without a work stoppage. And when the current agreement expires in 2016, baseball will have had 21 years of labor peace.
Manfred is a talented negotiator who knows the game’s landscape. With Selig based in Milwaukee, Manfred has led the MLB staff in New York. He has delivered in key situations, regarding both on-the-field issues and off.
With Manfred serving as Selig’s right-hand man, revenue-sharing and luxury-tax moneys started flowing to the small markets. Tougher drug rules steadily were enacted.
Not that all 30 owners were willing to give him props for that impressive resume, even though the “official” vote installing Manfred was 30-0. Various agendas were at work, as they always are given the various markets and interests involved.
The Oakland A’s are losing patience at being held captive in a crappy (literally) stadium. The Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals are engaged in a heated disagreement over local television rights and revenues. And some owners are distrusting of Manfred because, unlike Selig and Werner, he does not have an ownership pedigree. He is a lawyer.
According to multiple reports, the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Nationals, Reds, A’s, Angels and Diamondbacks all sided with Reinsdorf and, at least initially, voted for Werner.
It took 23 votes and multiple elections to name Manfred, and on this day, credit the owners for putting the best interest of the sport first. It's something you wouldn’t have seen years ago.
“The last numbers I saw were that 49 percent of the revenues were going to the players,” former commissioner Fay Vincent told Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin on MLB Network Radio earlier Thursday. “Even the football salary cap has 50 percent of the revenues going to the players. So baseball has done just as well.
“The real issue today is, will the owners throw all of that overboard, get rid of Selig and Manfred and turn to some other group...to try to change the attitude toward the union.
“History tells you that fighting with the union does not produce great victories for the owners. They’ve lost in every single battle that’s ever taken place.”
Lopsided losses, in far too many of them. You know what they say: Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Quick, send Reinsdorf, Arte Moreno (Angels), Lew Wolff (Athletics), Ken Kendrick (Diamondbacks) and the others back to history class.
Yes, Werner is a whiz in the television business, which is no small thing for baseball.
But Manfred is eminently more qualified and far less tone deaf. For one thing, he never invited Roseanne Barr to a ballpark to sing a national anthem.
“Like Commissioner Selig, I believe competitive balance is the bedrock of the product we sell, and I believe it always will be a priority,” Manfred said Thursday in response to a question about the beleaguered A’s and Tampa Bay Rays franchises.
Specifics, he did not offer. Which is fine. There will be time enough to dive into globalizing the game, stadium issues, improving instant replay, protecting pitchers, Pete Rose, negotiating the next deal with the union and moving Selig’s office supplies out of Milwaukee.
Thursday was a long enough day as it was, and Bud is still the commissioner, you know. Through January, anyway.
By then, I sure hope Manfred will have been sized for the boots he’ll need to go clean up that sewage in Oakland’s Coliseum.
Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has over two decades of experience covering MLB, including 14 years as a national baseball columnist at CBSSports.com.
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