BALTIMORE — The three candidates in Major League Baseball’s first contested election for a new commissioner in 46 years made presentations to the 30 teams Wednesday, a day ahead of the vote.
MLB Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred, Boston Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner and MLB Executive Vice President of Business Tim Brosnan addressed team executives at a hotel a few blocks from Camden Yards in attempts to gain the 23 votes needed to replace Bud Selig in January.
They spoke for about an hour apiece, including PowerPoint presentations, and the owners attended an evening reception at the B&O Warehouse behind the ballpark’s right-field wall. The executives will split into three groups of 10 for question-and-answer sessions Thursday before the vote, which will take place by secret written ballot. A three-quarters majority is needed for election.
“That certainly is the goal,” New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said. “That’s why we’re all here.”
Manfred was estimated to have the support of 20-21 teams headed into the meetings, Werner of about six and Brosnan one: the Cincinnati Reds. There is no limit to the number of ballots, and it remained possible no one would gain election.
“I wouldn’t even guess,” Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno said.
Werner is supported by Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and Moreno. Other teams have said Reinsdorf wants a commissioner who will take a harsher stance in labor negotiations for the deal to replace the collective bargaining agreement that expires after the 2016 season.
“I haven’t been counting votes,” Reinsdorf said. “I don’t know where anybody stands.”
Selig, 80, has ruled baseball since September 1992, first as chairman of baseball’s executive council and since July 1998 as commissioner. The second-longest-serving head of baseball behind Kenesaw Mountain Landis (1920-44), Selig announced last fall that he plans to retire in January 2015. The trio of candidates was picked by a seven-man succession committee chaired by St. Louis Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr.
Manfred, 55, has been involved in baseball since 1987, starting as a lawyer with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius who assisted in collective bargaining. He became MLB’s executive vice president for labor relations and human resources in 1998, received an expanded role of executive vice president of economics and league affairs in 2012 and last September was promoted to chief operating officer. He helped lead negotiations for baseball’s last three labor contracts with players and the joint drug agreement that was instituted in 2002 and has been repeatedly strengthened.
Werner, 64, was the controlling owner of the San Diego Padres from 1990-94, triggering fan criticism for the payroll-paring departures of Fred McGriff, Gary Sheffield, Tony Fernandez, Randy Myers and Benito Santiago. He has been part of the Red Sox ownership group since 2002, a period that included three World Series titles. While working at ABC, he helped develop Robin Williams’ “Mork & Mindy” and later was executive producer of “The Cosby Show” and “Roseanne” at The Carsey-Werner Co., which he ran with Marcy Carsey.
Brosnan, 56, was hired by MLB as vice president of international business affairs in 1991, became chief operating officer of Major League Baseball International in 1994 and senior vice president of domestic and international properties in 1998. He has held his current role since 2000. A lawyer like Manfred, he has been a key figure in the negotiations of MLB’s national broadcasting contracts.
MLB’s last contested election for commissioner was after Spike Eckert was fired in December 1968. With the requirement then a three-quarters majority in both the American and National leagues, teams split between San Francisco Giants vice president Chub Feeney and Yankees president Michael Burke and failed to elect anyone during 19 ballots during a meeting on Dec. 20-21 that ended at 5:05 a.m.
Bowie Kuhn, a partner at the law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher and counsel to baseball’s Player Relations Committee, was elected commissioner pro-tem on Feb. 4, 1969, with a one-year term. He was voted a seven-year term that August and remained in office until October 1984, when he was replaced by Los Angeles Olympics head Peter Ueberroth.
Former Yale President A. Bartlett Giamatti took over from Ueberroth in April 1989, died later that September and was replaced by his deputy commissioner, Fay Vincent. Selig, then the Milwaukee Brewers owner, teamed with Reinsdorf to head the group that pressured for Vincent’s forced resignation in September 1992.