Rob Manfred

Baseball owners are looking for a “strong CEO” and “visionary leader” for the next commissioner

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The committee to choose a successor to MLB commissioner Bud Selig has officially been formed. It is being chaired by Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt and will have six owners on it. They will not consult an outside search firm. DeWitt’s comments moments ago about what they intend to do:

That last bit speaks to both Selig’s style — he was all about consensus — but also causes me some confusion here.

Selig has clearly set up Rob Manfred to be his successor. He named him COO last year. He headed up the Biogenesis investigation. He made the media rounds with Selig to take credit for blasting A-Rod into the stone age. He has tons of experience with labor negotiations and has long been Selig’s right-hand man.

But no one has ever described him as “visionary” and if Selig always gets his 30-0 vote, why not just rubber stamp Manfred rather than conduct a search like this?

It’s possible that this is all formality and that the purpose of the committee is, in fact, to ratify Selig’s wishes, only in a slightly more formalized manner so as to show the world that the owners still run things. But maybe — just maybe — it shows that the owners aren’t all that thrilled with Rob Manfred and want to see if there’s someone a bit sexier out there before settling on old Rob.

That approach has rarely worked in the past — it’s what stuck MLB with William Eckert and Peter Ueberroth. But it appears that the owners are at least open to that possibility.

Jake Peavy is having a bad go of things right now

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 25: Jake Peavy #22 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the San Diego Padres during the first inning at AT&T Park on May 25, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Veteran hurler Jake Peavy has not signed with a team. It’s not because he’s not still capable of being a useful pitcher — he’s well-regarded and someone would likely take a late-career chance on him — and it’s not because he no longer wishes to play. Rather, it’s because a bunch of bad things have happened in his personal life lately.

As Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports, last year Peavy lost millions in an investment scam and spent much of the 2016 season distracted, dealing with investigations and depositions and all of the awfulness that accompanied it. Then, when the season ended, Peavy went home and was greeted with divorce papers. He has spent the offseason trying to find a new normal for himself and for his four sons.

Pitching is taking a backseat now, but Peavy plans to pitch again. Here’s hoping that things get sorted to the point where he can carry through with those plans.

The AT&T Park mortgage is paid off

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This is fun: The San Francisco Giants recently made their last payment on the $170 million, 20-year loan they obtained to finance the construction of AT&T Park. The joint is now officially paid for.

The Giants, unlike most other teams which moved into new stadiums in the past 25 years or so, did not rely on direct public financing. They tried to get it for years, of course, but when the voters, the city of San Francisco and the State of California said no, they decided to pay for it themselves. They ended up with one of baseball’s best-loved and most beautiful parks and, contrary to what the owners who desperately seek public funds will have you believe, they were not harmed competitively speaking. Indeed, rumor has it that they have won three World Series, four pennants and have made the playoffs seven times since moving into the place in 2000. They sell out routinely now too and the Giants are one of the richest teams in the sport.

Now, to be clear, the Giants are not — contrary to what some people will tell you — some Randian example of self-reliance. They did not receive direct public money to build the park, but they did get a lot of breaks. The park sits on city-owned property in what has become some of the most valuable real estate in the country. If the city had held on to that land and realized its appreciation, they could flip it to developers for far more than the revenue generated by baseball. Or, heaven forfend, use it for some other public good. The Giants likewise received some heavy tax abatements, got some extraordinarily beneficial infrastructure upgrades and require some heavy city services to operate their business. All sports stadiums, even the ones privately constructed, represent tradeoffs for the public.

Still, AT&T Park represents a better model than most sports facilities do. I mean, ask how St. Louis feels about still paying for the place the Rams used to call home before taking off for California. Ask how taxpayers in Atlanta and Arlington, Texas feel about paying for their second stadium in roughly the same time the Giants have paid off their first.