Bud Selig says this time he's really going to do it. He's going to retire as baseball's commissioner in January 2015.
Selig has mentioned retirement before, most recently in 2012, only to then sign a contract extension. Of course, he could change his mind again or baseball's owners could persuade him to stick around. But Selig will be 80 years old by the time his current contract expires and will have been in the commissioner's office for 22 years, the second-longest tenure after Kenesaw Mountain Landis. The man might finally want to do something else.
This development raises the natural follow-up question: Who is going to replace Selig as baseball commissioner? He's been in the office for so long that some prospective candidates, such as former senator George Mitchell or former president George W. Bush, moved on to other endeavors. Yet there are plenty of in-house possibilities that currently work in the commissioner's office.
In reality, Selig's replacement is not going to be a flashy, glamorous choice. He'll likely be someone that most baseball fans hardly know. Reporters and analysts who might be familiar with the next commissioner will be aware only because they did the necessary research to write about the potential candidates. We'll list a few of those names here. But let's also push outside the MLB front office a bit and propose some more interesting choices for the job. Here are eight possibilities.
Rob Manfred: This is probably the most logical choice. Manfred is Selig's right-hand man, the consigliere, the understudy. However you choose to put it, he's basically MLB's second-in-command as Executive Vice-President, Economics and League Affairs. Manfred's primary responsibilities deal with labor and human resource issues within baseball. He helps the teams and their owners communicate with the players association. If one of Selig's legacies is 20 years of labor peace between owners and players, Manfred has played a key role in that. As MLB rakes in more revenue, he'll surely help decide how management and labor will divide the pie.
Bob Bowman: Personally, this would be my top choice for Selig's replacement. If the owners want a CEO-type to lead the game, they already have one in Bowman, who has that role with MLB Advanced Media. If you are enjoying baseball and keeping tabs on your favorite teams with your phone, tablet or computer, Bowman is one of the primary figures responsible for that. No sport has a better online presence than baseball. Other sports and corporations have turned to MLBAM to develop streaming technology and content. Bowman isn't just a baseball guy either. He's served in the government and business worlds too. Watch Bowman's interview with Charlie Rose to get an idea of his vision.
Joe Torre: If the intention is to put a baseball guy in the commissioner's chair, Torre is in the best position to make that jump. He's been a player and manager, of course. He's been a part of ownership groups attempting to buy MLB teams. And he's already in the MLB management club as Executive of Baseball Operations. Torre is seen primarily as baseball's disciplinarian, handing out suspensions and other such penalties. But he's the liaison between the commissioner's office and team front offices. If you want the man in charge to be someone who has experience on the field and in the executive quarters, Torre fills those criteria nicely. Besides, he had to work for George Steinbrenner, so he already knows how to placate difficult owners.
Sandy Alderson: There are a few general managers who many see as possibly making the jump from a team executive to the MLB front office. Tigers president and GM Dave Dombrowski has been mentioned as a candidate by several analysts. Alderson has experience running several baseball teams — including the A's, Padres and Mets — but has also worked in the commissioner's office before. From 1998 to 2005, he basically had Torre's current job as Executive Vice-President of Baseball Operations. Additionally, Alderson has worked under large and small payrolls — going from Oakland's big-spending days to a "Moneyball" philosophy — giving him an understanding of how teams need to be run in the sport's modern economic climate.
Matt Harvey: OK, Harvey is busy as pitcher for the Mets (though his schedule could be filled with rehab over the next year or so, depending on whether or not he undergoes Tommy John surgery). But as his recent interview with Dan Patrick demonstrated, Harvey can stay on message and won't be persuaded otherwise. Patrick wanted to talk about Harvey's elbow injury. No way, dude — we're talking about Qualcomm. And fancasting and tweeting. The owners need someone in a leadership role who won't stray from the primary directive. And if they're worried that Harvey is too famous, New Yorkers have already shown they don't know who he is.
Jim Leyland: Some would surely like the idea of a no-nonsense leader like Leyland overseeing the sport. But think of how effective he would be at press conferences after negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement. Leyland could take the podium, explain the new deal and then be overcome with emotion, thanking the fans and owners, and hoping they're all getting their money's worth. And of course, he could end such a presser by moonwalking off the stage.
Magic Johnson: Magic has already conquered this ownership thing. Roughly one year after he and the Guggenheim Baseball Management group took over the Dodgers, they pummeled baseball with fistfuls of cash and became a playoff team. He's made millions in the business world through his own movie theater chain and Starbucks cafes, with an eye on putting those franchises in urban communities that otherwise might not get such attention from corporate America. I would argue that Magic should also continue his work as a NBA analyst while he's baseball commissioner, giving the sport a unique outlet. While explaining to Michael Wilbon and Bill Simmons why the Lakers can't effectively defend the pick-and-roll, Magic could also announce that MLB is suspending Alex Rodriguez again — this time because he wears his socks too high.
Munenori Kawasaki: OK, I acknowledge this could be seen as an unusual choice. Kawasaki is a fringe major league ballplayer with two seasons on his résumé. As far as we know, he has no managerial experience as a coach or executive. He may know nothing about the business, media or corporate worlds. But MLB wants to expand its global brand, as demonstrated by playing regular-season games in Japan and creating the World Baseball Classic. Kawasaki could play an ambassadorial role, helping to bridge the gap between baseball in North America and international countries — especially those in the Far East. Perhaps most importantly, unlike Selig, Kawasaki would not be boring in interviews and press conferences. He already has his answers prepared.