Selig gets his man in Rob Manfred. And with it, his final triumph.

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In the end it went the way Bud Selig wanted it to go: a unanimous vote for his hand-picked successor in Rob Manfred. The protest candidacy of Tom Werner and the potential compromise candidate in Tim Brosnan are now reduced to historical footnote. No matter what happens in the final five months of Selig’s tenure, and no matter what ceremonies and held and what honors and gifts are given to him as he leaves office, Manfred’s selection as the next commissioner is Selig’s final triumph.

Final of many, actually. Say what you will about Bud Selig, but after driving baseball into the ditch by helping foment the 1994 strike, he learned that he couldn’t simply impose his will on the game of baseball. He needed to deal. He needed to compromise. Both with the players and the other owners. And occasionally politicians and media executives. No one thinks of Bud Selig as a charismatic leader. Many like to talk about him as if he is a failure. But can you name a thing that he has wanted and not gotten in the past 15 years or so? Or, at the very least, a thing he hasn’t wanted that he has, nevertheless, been able to spin as his own personal victory? I can’t.

He got what he wanted by abandoning the aggressive and confrontational approach which catapulted him into office in the first place. He led a coup against his predecessor, Fay Vincent, and declared war on the MLBPA. When he lost, he changed. Not many people with his power survive such losses. Even fewer manage to change and find success. Bud did. And he dragged 30 team owners along with him, despite the fact that team owners tend to be a non-learning, non-compromising lot by nature. He got them to play by his rules and as a result baseball has flourished and has been free of labor difficulties for the better part of two decades.

The candidacy of Red Sox CEO Tom Werner to succeed Selig can only be seen as the old guard — many of Bud’s old friends, actually — trying to take things back to where they were in 1994. Jerry Reinsdorf and seven other owners who wanted to take a harder line with the players union. Or with dissenting owners. Or with anyone, really. Owners who were not fans of Selig’s mode of consensus or, at the very least, not fans of not getting their way like they used to. Owners who do not appear to be big fans of a powerful commissioner like Bud Selig has become. They wanted to deny him the right to name his successor, which is what Rob Manfred’s candidacy was all about. They wanted to end a state of affairs in which they follow the commissioner’s lead rather than dictate to him like they used to do before Bud Selig came along. In putting up Wener, they were trying to impose their will, like Bud used to do in the heady days of pre-strike Major League Baseball.

But, as has so often been the case for the past 15 years or so, Bud Selig’s opponents were playing checkers while he was playing chess. At some point on Thursday afternoon, after Manfred had continued to fall one vote shy of victory following several rounds of balloting, Bud Selig was seen talking to his old friend but current adversary, Reinsdorf, in a hallway at the owners meetings. And then, a couple of hours later, Rob Manfred was elected on a 30-0 vote. The opposition either fought off or bought off, but gone either way. Selig got what he wanted. Because Selig always gets what he wants. He knows how to do that now. He could probably do it in his sleep.

As of right now, 30 owners of major league baseball teams have decided that Bud’s Way is the way of the future. They may sour on Rob Manfred later, or give him problems that they can’t really give Bud, but for now they have agreed that Selig’s consensus-building approach should continue on, even if Bud Selig has decided that he doesn’t want to anymore. They have abandoned their objection to Selig essentially naming his heir.

And by doing so, they have ensured that Bud Selig’s reign will become Bud Selig’s dynasty.

 

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.