The College of Cardinals is gathering, and making a few last-minute mutual back-scratchings before the election of the next Bud Selig.
Which, we should warn you, may turn out to be the current Bud Selig if enough owners are dissatisfied with the current crop of candidates. Bud’s never been averse to putting a little overtime, especially at his current pay rate.
But before we wonder about a future with Rob Manfred, Tim Brosnan or Tom Werner in the comfy chair, let’s ask a question: Whatever happened to the “candidacy” of Larry Baer? One mention in The New York Times, and poof? I mean, Pat Paulsen’s presidential run lasted longer.
Oh, we kid Larry and from a safe distance. Mostly because he’s packing heat.
In fact, though, the vote for a new commissioner has nothing to do with who the next commissioner is going to be. What it will really tell us is which owner or owners is running baseball now. After all, we needn’t tell you yet again that baseball is run by owners and not commissioners, right?
This particular fight for the white pointy hat is actually not about who will succeed Selig, but who will succeed Jerry Reinsdorf, the Chicago White Sox owner and the chief kingmaker/vote-whipper for the better part of three decades.
Reinsdorf has apparently viewed Manfred as not to his needs. The insertion of Werner, one of the owners of the Boston Red Sox and before that the San Diego Padres, as a candidate (maybe in the Baer spot; hey, we can hypothesize with the best of them) raises questions about whether the owners want to have one of theirs as they did with Selig.
Manfred is considered the defender of Selig’s legacy and the one most likely to maintain the game’s current course; he is also considered by some owners a little too conciliatory with the players union, which is an eternal complaint of hardliners in every sport who think the best form of workers union is the mud farmer in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Brosnan is a guy who finds money for MLB (always a valuable skill), and probably a compromise candidate from either the Manfred or Werner camps. Though if you’re going to vote compromise, there is still Selig. He has sworn on a stack of Baseball Prospectii that he is done playing Pope in January, but he might be inveigled to stay a bit longer until the owners find someone they all like more than the current crowd.
And if we know anything from the Neptunian pace of events in Oakland/San Jose/San Jose, baseball works on its own timetable. In a hurry when necessary, put off for months or years when possible.
On that subject, a new commissioner (or, as you should think of it, a new kingmaker) will have no effect on the Athletics issue. The courts have basically chased San Jose’s lawsuit against Major League Baseball into traffic, so the A’s have no leverage there, and the mood of most owners is to punish the town (and the A’s) for making them spend money on a lawsuit that was so dismissively routed.
Beyond that, we enter a realm of conjecture. Manfred would be unlikely to try and reverse baseball’s course of aggressive inaction on the matter, while Werner might be more persuadable on the issue of owners’ individual rights, having felt the vice of trying to operate in the far lower left corner of the country and bracketed by Angels and Dodgers and Diamondbacks and the Mexican border. Brosnan goes where the money is, however that is determined.
And if Baer had been a candidate in more than just a throwaway paragraph -– well, do you need to ask?
So Thursday, we raise our eyes to a hotel rooftop. If you see white smoke, there is a new commissioner. If you see black smoke, there isn’t. And if you see someone being hurled from an open window –- well, it’s probably someone who suggested Mark Cuban as a possibility.