mystery man

Who is Bud Selig’s successor?

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One thing that wasn’t mentioned in Bud Selig’s retirement announcement yesterday is who will take his place following the 2014 season. So who’s it gonna be?

While people like to speculate about big names or political figures — Bob Costas! George W. Bush! — such speculation, if made seriously, evinces a lack of understanding of the job of commissioner. It’s not a political or p.r. position, even if there are some elements of that involved. It’s also not a job that an outsider can or should be considered for. Baseball tried that with Peter Ueberroth and Fay Vincent, each of whom came from corporate America (Ueberroth’s intervening years were spent organizing the 1984 Olympics) and each were failures who lost support of the men who hired them: baseball’s owners.

Selig’s success as commissioner was largely attributable to the fact that he was always in tune with what his 26-30 owners wanted and felt. He was one of them, after all, and he knew what was important to them. He kept in constant communication with them and when he wanted to get something done he worked them like crazy, building a consensus before acting. The man never fired before aiming and never picked a fight without knowing that the majority of the owners had his back.

You can bet your bippy that those who will be in charge of choosing the next commissioner will have that at the front of their minds. If, for no other reason, than because Selig himself will probably be involved somehow. With that in mind, you can further bet your bippy that the next commissioner is already employed by Major League Baseball or one of its clubs.  Some guesses along those lines:

  • Rob Manfred: Executive vice president of MLB

Manfred is Selig’s right-hand man when it comes to labor issues, crisis management and all other things that requires a trusted fixer. He is like Roger Goodell was to Paul Tagliabue or Adam Silver to David Stern. A man who will be sure to carry on the same management style of a predecessor who left a tremendously large mark. Open question as to how much trust baseball’s other owners have in him given that, unlike Selig, he can’t pat them on the back and say “I know, I was there too once, you know,” but if Selig wants Manfred to be his successor, you figure it will happen.

  • Robert Bowman: CEO of MLB Advanced Media

If the owners want a forward-thinker to lead them into the future, Bowman could be their man. As the man who basically created baseball’s entire digital presence — and the copious financial benefits thereform — the MLBAM boss has an argument for the job couched in progress and vision. The downside of Bowman’s case: he really doesn’t deal with the owners in significant day-to-day ways his current role and there is no sense as to whether he’d have their confidence. Remember: when I talk about leading owners into the future, I’m talking about leading them into the late 20th century for the most part.

  • Sandy Alderson/Dave Dombrowski/Stan Kasten/Derrick Hall

None of them specifically, but that class of guy. A team president or high-ranking executive who has both experience in working with ownership and the league’s overall executive structure but who also is considered a forward-thinker. Someone whose baseball and business of baseball bona fides are beyond question. Again, whether all owners would support such a person is an open question — some may consider it odd to have someone they feel should be their underling as a commissioner — but when you think about it, the commissioner does answer to owners, so the dynamic should not be terribly odd.

At this point, of course, we’re just speculating. And we probably will be up until Bud Selig’s successor is chosen. We won’t have a public search process. Indeed, I feel like we will simply have the decision announced like the next pope or something.

Giants and Brandon Belt have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Wednesday

San Francisco Giants'  Brandon Belt reacts after being called out on strikes by home plate umpire Jim Joyce to end the top of the first inning against the Colorado Rockies in a baseball game Friday, Sept.. 4, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Brandon Belt filed for $7.5 million and was offered $5.3 million by the Giants when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. That’s a pretty sizable gap. While there’s still a chance that an agreement will be worked out at the last minute, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that an arbitration hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

The Giants haven’t gone to an arbitration hearing since 2004, when they lost to catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Schulman hears from one person involved that because of the gap between Belt and the Giants, there’s a real chance this will break that string and require a hearing.

Belt batted .280/.356/.478 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI over 137 games in 2015, but he dealt with concussion symptoms for the second straight season. An arbitration hearing could bring some unpleasant conversation to the surface.

Padres sign veteran utility player Skip Schumaker

Cincinnati Reds' Skip Schumaker is tagged out at home plate by San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey during the seventh inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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The Padres have inked veteran utility player Skip Schumaker to a minor league contract, per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

Schumaker, who turned 36 last week, has spent the last two seasons with the Reds. He batted .242/.306/.336 with one home run and 21 RBI over 131 games last season while making starts between all three outfield spots and second base. Cincinnati cut ties with him in November after declining a $2.5 million club option for 2016.

While Schumaker had to settle for a non-guaranteed deal here, it would be no surprise to see him land a bench job with the Padres come Opening Day.

Report: MLB, union making progress on new slide rule at second base

New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada falls after a slide by Los Angeles Dodgers' Chase Utley during the seventh inning of an NL Division Series baseball game Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, in Los Angeles. (John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News via AP)
John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News via AP
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After Ruben Tejada suffered a fractured right fibula on a takeout slide from Chase Utley during the playoffs, there was momentum for a new rule about slides at second base. We haven’t heard much about it since the Owners’ Meetings in November, but ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that talks between MLB and the players’ union are making progress and a change is expected for the 2016 season.

The exact wording of the new rule is still unclear, but Olney hears that there’s a focus toward “ensuring that sliding runners either touch the base or make an effort to touch the base.” Below are some more details:

Sources said that in the union’s internal discussions, players made it clear they had been taught since they first began playing baseball to go into second base with the intent of breaking up double-play attempts. Although the union wants to improve safety for middle infielders, it does not want to eliminate players’ aggressiveness on slides or the ability to break up a double play.

However, there is a desire on both sides to eliminate slides on which a baserunner goes beyond the effort to reach second to make contact with middle infielders.

There’s already a rule in place for a situation like we saw with Utley, but it’s rarely, if ever, enforced. It’s unfortunate that Tejada’s fractured fibula had to be the catalyst for change or clarification with the rules, but hopefully this will result in fewer injuries in the future. Similar to the “Buster Posey Rule” for plays at home plate, get ready for life with the “Chase Utley Rule.”

Here’s the video of the Tejada/Utley play:

And here’s the video of another high-profile play from 2015 which resulted in a torn lateral meniscus and a fractured tibia for Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang:

Report: Tigers and J.D. Martinez agree to a two-year, $18.5 million deal

J.D. Martinez
Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images
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UPDATE: Jason Beck of MLB.com confirms that it’s a two-year, $18.5 million deal.

8:00 p.m. ET: Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the Tigers have avoided arbitration with outfielder J.D. Martinez by agreeing to a two-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved, but Robert Murray of Baseball Essential reported earlier today that he was hearing rumblings about a two-year, $18.5 million deal.

Martinez filed for $8 million and was offered $6 million by the Tigers when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. There has been some talk about a long-term extension, but we heard last week that the two sides were discussing both one- and two-year deals. This new deal will buy out Martinez’s final two years of arbitration, so as of now, he’s still on track to go into free agency after 2017.

After a breakout 2014, Martinez batted .282 with 38 home runs and an .879 OPS over 158 games last season.