mystery man

Who is Bud Selig’s successor?


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.

Billy Williams, Bill Murray and . . . Fall Out Boy!

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 08:  Former players Ferguson Jenkins (L) and Billy Williams of the Chicago Cubs throw out ceremonial first pitches before the Opening Day game against the Milwaukee Brewers during the Opening Day game at Wrigley Field on April 8, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Major League Baseball has announced the on-field ceremonial stuff for tonight’s Game 3 of the World Series. There are a couple of good things here! And one bit of evidence that, at some point when he was still commissioner, Bud Selig sold his mortal soul to a pop punk band and now the league can’t do a thing about it.

The ceremonial first pitch choice is fantastic: it’s Billy Williams, the Hall of Famer and six-time All-Star who starred for the Cubs from 1959 through 1974. Glad to see Williams here. I know he’s beloved in Chicago, but he has always seemed to be one of the more overlooked Hall of Famers of the 1960s-70s. I’m guessing not being in the World Series all that time has a lot to do with that, so it’s all the more appropriate that he’s getting the spotlight tonight. Here’s hoping Fox makes a big deal out of it and replays it after the game starts.

“Take me out to the ballgame” will be sung by the guy who, I assume, holds the title of Cubs First Fan, Bill Murray. It’ll be wacky, I’m sure.

The National Anthem will be sung by Chicago native Patrick Stump. Who, many of you may know, is the lead singer for Fall Out Boy. This continues Major League Baseball’s strangely strong association with Fall Out Boy over the years. They, or some subset of them, seem to perform at every MLB jewel event. They have featured in MLB’s Opening Day musical montages. They played at the All-Star Game this summer. Twice. And, of course, they are the creative minds behind “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark,” (a/k/a “light ’em MUPMUPMUPMUP“) which Major League Baseball and Fox used as incessant playoff bumper music several years ago. I don’t ask for much in life, but one thing I do want is someone to love me as much as Major League Baseball loves Fall Out Boy. We all do, really.

Wayne Messmer, the former public address announcer for the Cubs and a regular performer of the National Anthem at Wrigley Field will sing “God Bless America.”

Between that and Bill Murray, I think we’ve found out the Cubs strategy for dealing with Andrew Miller: icing him if he tries to straddle the 6th and 7th innings.

Imagining a daytime World Series game at Wrigley Field

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 27:  A overall shot of the scoreboard showing the postponement of the game in Baltimore because of riots before the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 27, 2015 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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Night baseball first came to the World Series in 1971, when the Pirates played the Orioles in Game 4. The last World Series game played under natural light came in 1984, when the Tigers played the Padres in Detroit in Game 5 of that year’s Fall Classic. The last World Series game played during daytime hours was Game 6 of the 1987 World Series, but that came in Minneapolis, in the Metrodome, so it was still played under artificial light. All games since then have been played in the evening hours.

Ever since, there have been periodic calls for the World Series to include day games. These appeals are often grounded in tradition and nostalgia for bright sunshine making way for long shadows. For memories of sneaking transistor radios into classrooms. For the symbolism of the sun setting on both the day at hand and the baseball season as a whole.

It’s an appealing idea. Baseball in the daytime is a wonderful, wonderful thing. And while day baseball may be occasionally miserable for fans and players in the heat of August, October afternoons are often the loveliest weather there is. There is nothing better than fall sunshine. A baseball game in that fall sunshine seems like the closest one can get to heaven on Earth.

Unfortunately, it’s a wholly unrealistic idea in this day and age. Far fewer people would actually get to watch the World Series if it were played during the day. We complain about late games lasting into the wee hours, preventing kids from watching, but how many kids are going to be able to watch a World Series game when they’re in school? Or at after school extracurricular activities? And how many people can ditch work to watch a baseball game? Some say to put one of the day games on the weekend, but that clashes with other activities and, of course, with football, which is going to win the battle for the remote in more households than baseball would.

Yes, the networks and Major League Baseball are in it for the money and the TV ratings, but the fact is that the money and the ratings are a function of more people watching baseball games in the evening, kids and grownups alike. It’s pretty straightforward, actually. More people watching baseball is better for the people and for baseball, full stop, aesthetics and commercial motivations notwithstanding. For this reason the World Series will almost certainly be played at night for the foreseeable future. And it should be.

Still . . . it’s Wrigley Field, the last bastion of day-only baseball for decades. A place where, even if they now play most games at night, still features more day baseball than anyplace else. And it’s a sunny Friday afternoon on which the temperatures will creep into the 60s. I know it would never happen and certainly won’t happen today, but the idea of an afternoon World Series game in Wrigley Field makes even a hard-headed, bottom-line-appreciating anti-nostalgist like me sorta wish today was a day game. If I close my eyes I can imagine it. I can feel the warm breeze and smell the fall afternoon air. I’m sure many of you can too.

And even if you can’t, can we agree that maybe today should be a day game simply for public health purposes? I mean, get a load of this:

These people will have been drinking for at least 11 hours come game time. Many of them for much longer. You’re probably looking at some dead men walking, here. For the sake of their livers and personal safety, this game should start at 1pm, dang it. If even that is early enough to save them.