Candidates for the Next Commissioner of Baseball

Bud Selig has now been Commissioner of Baseball for more years than anyone since Judge Landis. Some say he has been a good boss, some say he has been a bad boss. I have my opinion, but I don’t care about that today. My main gripe against Bud is that he should have never been Commissioner to start with. He was an owner, and not a very good one, as evidenced by his teams one playoff appearance under his reign. Ewing Kaufman ran circles around the guy, and George Steinbrenner left him in the dust. How he was chosen for the job is still a mystery.

Anyhow, Bud is 75 now, and starting to look like Mr. Burns from The Simpson’s more and more every day. Bud has said he will step down in a few years, but I think the sooner the better. Like today. But that won’t happen, because he needs a replacement, and it takes time to find quality candidates. Except that it doesn’t, because I’ve done the leg work for Bud already.

I’ve chosen 9 good candidates to be the next Commissioner of Baseball. All he has to do is choose his successor and get his boys to select the one they want. There are some great candidates, some good candidates, some dark horse candidates, and some fantasy candidates. But one think they have in common is that none of them currently own a franchise. And shouldn’t. The commissioner should not be an owner. They need an independent mind to run things, and keep the owners, players, union and business side of things from making the house of cards collapse.

So, in alphabetical order by first name (because that’s how I want to do it) are my candidates listed below:

Bill Richardson:
You shouldn’t have to ask, but most people will. That’s why he’s a good candidate. A successful governor, who made a decent enough run at a presidential bid he had no chance of winning. But I would have voted for him over both eventual candidates. He’s very much a middle of the road kind of guy, who knows how to work both sides without catering to either. That might be the best qualification for the job. Along with that, ran the most heavily Latino-populated state in the country, and with Latinos and Asians and Europeans appearing in large numbers in the game, someone who is used to dealing with and understanding minorities is a good choice for the job. I also think he is part Mexican, but I don’t remember for sure. Also, stepping down from a Cabinet post nomination because of some political backhandedness shows integrity on his part. It was political, and he refused to play the game. I think he is a sleeper choice that no one knows about. And since it was Commerce, he must know something about finances.

Why he should get the job:
He is a sleeper choice that no one knows about.
Political background and a successful governor.
Middle of the road kind of guy who can deal with many issues.
Best candidate to deal with minority issues and problems.

Why he won’t get the job:
Sleeper candidate no one knows about.
Don’t even know if he likes baseball or not.
The issues from the Cabinet nomination.

Bill White:
There is a good chance White might have been the Commissioner one day, if not for the troubles of Faye Vincent. He was the President of the National League before they abolished the league offices and consolidated it in the front. Give White credit for seeing what was going on and stepping down first. Not only is he a former player, but as a league executive, he was in one of the three highest positions in the game. He understands the game from both sides (see below) and was successful at both jobs. He has a great reputation in the game, and was seen as fair during his tenure. While I’m not into the mandatory minority candidate positions, this isn’t that. Bill White might have very well been Commissioner one day, regardless of the fact that he is a minority. But hiring him covers both areas. A competent commissioner and a minority hiring.

Why he should get the job:
Natural progression. He might have had it at some point. Why not now?
He was a player.
He was a league executive.
He’s the right guy for the job.

Why he won’t get it:
He’s a minority.
He was a player.
His age. (he might not want it, but wouldn’t this be a great time to make it a 5-year position).

Bob Costas:
Not quite as crazy as it once seemed. At one time, a lot of people thought he might be a good guy for the job, and would have wanted him. Then he wrote his book, and his status seemed to change. For some reason, he fell out of favor and out of the spotlight. He was outspoken about what he believed in, and it angered many people. But the reasons people considered him in the first place are still valid. He cares about the game, he grew up with it, and he has a desire to make it better. I’m not sure what the problems with that would be. His self-appointed role as spokesman for the game and elder statesman have pushed him out of the forefront, but maybe some outside the box thinking and a fresh approach is what’s needed. He’s had a little bit of revival by staying low-key lately.

Why he should get the job:
Why not? There aren’t a lot of serious qualifications for the job.
He would bring a fresh perspective to the game.
Probably knows the game as well as any candidate would while remaining an outsider.

Why he won’t get it:
He’s a broadcaster. No chance.
Somehow relegated himself into obscurity with his book and his talk shows.
He’s not enough of an outsider.

George Bush:
I almost left him off, but only because of the political issue.

First, the qualifications: a former owner, who turned a dog franchise into a semi-success, at least in terms of finances. That will set well with the other owners. A former politician (duh!) which seems to be one of the few actual qualifications needed for the job. Loves the game, and doesn’t just talk it. Actually knows it. Won’t take himself too seriously in the job. Used to running large, corporation-type entities (teams, states, countries). He is as good a candidate for the job, based on baseball criteria, than anyone else.

The disqualifications: I don’t care about his politics, that’s done and over. But too many other people do. They wouldn’t be able to let it go. That’s both sides, Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative. Every time a decision was made, one side or the other would start screaming about something.

Doing this proves he was right about ….
Doing that proves he was wrong about….

People should be able to have different phases of their lives. If you look at him as a former President, he would never get a fair shake. If you look at him as just a candidate for the job, he is a good choice, politics aside.

But one thing we have learned in this country, is we can’t separate politics from our lives. We let it invade every aspect of our being and it hurts us.

*** If you leave comments, and please do, limit them to his ability for the job and baseball, and not anything else. This is not about politics, its about baseball. ***

Why he should get the job:
Because he is a good candidate for it.
He truly cares about the game.
A former owner.
He knows how to handle fractious elements in a group of powerful people.

Why he won’t get the job:
His last career. ( that’s the only reason)

Harvey Schiller:
He’s the president of the International Baseball Federation. Yes, he’s American. He’s doing something that Bud and his boys haven’t figured out yet. He’s promoting baseball on the international stage and understands the importance of it outside the US. He’s an outsider, which is what the owners have traditionally looked for. He doesn’t have any ties to the players, the unions or any specific owners, which means he’s not locked into a clique. He’s got the pedigree to do the job, at least as much as any Commissioner has ever had. The man is living and breathing baseball right now, travelling the world to promote it and get it back into the Olympics. He understands the game at the grass roots level, and sees it from cow pastures in Nigeria to state of the art ball parks in Japan. He deals with leagues all over the world and talks to them about the problems of establishing themselves and being successful. He could move into an established league and get things done.

Why he should get the job:
He’s an outsider.
He sees the game every day from the lowest to the highest level.
He has the background to do it.

Why he won’t get the job:
He’s an outsider. (the owners have grown comfortable with their own)
He’s pushing for baseball to return to the Olympics (not a good thing for Bud and the boys)
He’s strongly anti-drug and pro-testing. (not just saying it, he means it)

John Schuerholz:
You want someone who knows success to be the next Commissioner? Who has been more successful in baseball than Schuerholz? Multiple pennant winners in Kansas City and Atlanta, with World Series wins to his resume. One of the most respected guys in the game. Knows about winning. Took a terrible Braves franchise and made it a model of success. There is nothing controversial about him. He knows the game. He’s an owners guy (aren’t all GM’s), but has great rapport with the players. He understands that Scott Boras is the devil and refused to deal with him. Has been successful and knows his way around both leagues. Knows most of the owners and other GM’s.

Why he should get the job:
Because he’s the best choice.
Knows how to build and maintain winning teams (can stay the course)
Can deal with players and owners equally effectively.
Doesn’t like agents.

Why he won’t get the job:
Because he was a GM. Bud Selig is the first commissioner from inside the game itself.
Lack of experience dealing with the game on a larger scale.
A lot of people don’t like the Braves because of TBS and the ‘America’s Team’ thing.

Nolan Ryan:
To me, he has great qualifications. A Hall of Fame player, so he knows the game and the players side of things. An owner of successful minor league teams, so he knows what it means to own a team. A team executive, so he knows what it means to deal with the union, the league, the players, and the big office. As well, he owns several banks, so he’s a successful business man as well, and isn’t that what it’s all about now. The money.

There are really two things that stand out about Ryan, and why he can do it. First is the fight with Robin Ventura. Pitchers normally run when the batter charges the mound. Not Ryan. He went to meet Ventura, and whupped the pup while he was at it. There’s no back down in this guy. He’s not afraid of a fight, and the union won’t scare him. The second is something that happened this year, when he said the Rangers would scrap pitch counts for the pitchers, and they would be expected to throw. It might be wrong, it might be right. But the Texas Rangers pitching sucks, and at least he’s got a plan. He’s not afraid to go against conventional wisdom.

Why he should get the job:
He was a player.
He was an owner.
He is a team executive.
He has a business background.
He can get the job done.
Best all around candidate.

Why he won’t get the job:
He was a player (member of the union).
Too outspoken.
No one would take the suggestions seriously and he would never be a serious candidate.

Theo Epstein:
Don’t laugh. The Boy Wonder might be the guy to do this. Pete Rozelle took over the NFL in his 30’s and lasted for 30 years. And was a great success. Theo has some things going for him. Has been successful and brought Boston back to glory, with 2 WS victories. Has embraced the statistical revolution, but not been overwhelmed by it. It’s the future, and it needs to be taken seriously, even if some people don’t like it. Stood up to the owners of the Boston Red Sox, even though some people called him out for it. What it showed me is that he is own man, and not some one’s lackey. He has a good track record, he’s young, he’s experienced in the game, and trading Nomar shows he’s not afraid to make the tough decision when it is needed. He’s new blood, and he brings a new way of looking at the game.

Why he should get it:
MLB needs to look to the future, and he’s got the vision.
He’s young and be there for awhile.
He doesn’t let owners push him around.

Why he won’t get it:
His age. No one will take him seriously.
Not enough overall experience in the game at this point.
He probably doesn’t want it. (where would he go from there?)

Vin Scully:
Yeah, laugh if you want. But who better? Seriously. This guy is Mr. Baseball. Is there a person in the game (player, owner, agent, union officials) that don’t respect this guy? Sure, he might not be the most qualified guy in the world, but lots of Commissioners didn’t have the qualifications for the job, as such. But is there a guy out there who would care for the fans more than he does. Of course, that’s a strange concept. The Commissioner actually caring about what the fans want from the game. He might not have all the skills needed for the job, but I don’t have any doubt he could do it. And if there was ever labor trouble again, who better to explain than Vin Scully. He would make the most cynical of us look forward to the next press conference just to hear him explain the negotiations.

But here is one thing I know. Close your eyes for 10 seconds and think about Vin Scully being commissioner of baseball. Because if they announced it tomorrow, I would be okay with it. And so would you. And you know you would.

Why he should get it:
There would finally be a commissioner the fans would respect.
He would make sure the fans are taken care of.
Since there really is no such thing as a legitimate candidate for this job, why not him.
Who’s going to argue with him or say something negative.

Why he won’t get it:
He would care about the fans.
His age. (I don’t think he would be up for the travel)
He wouldn’t want it. (go out on top, Vin, don’t lower your standing in your eyes by being Commissioner)
No qualifications.

So, my choices in ord

  1. Bill White
  2. Nolan Ryan
  3. Harvey Schiller
  4. John Schuerholz
  5. Theo Epstein
  6. George Bush
  7. Bill Richardson
  8. Vin Scully
  9. Bob Costas

If Harvey Schiller gets baseball back in the Olympics, he should then be the only choice for the job. But that will probably disqualify him in the minds of the owners.

So, again, keeping it non-political, who are your choices and why?

Thanks to Ron for giving us some good discussion material. Make sure to visit his site for more of his unique perspective on the game.

IIATMS overlord and founder. ESPN contributor. Purveyor of luscious reality.