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Baseball’s Game of Thrones: A Rule of Three, Two…or One?

In an article for The New York Times Thursday, Michael Schmidt provided some interesting details about the clash of wills between current MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and a group of owners seemingly led by White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who disagree with Selig’s plan to install his “deputy” Rob Manfred as baseball’s next commish.  Reinsdorf says little on the record but it’s thought that Selig’s cloak-and-dagger machinations to handpick his successor aren’t going over well with his longtime ally.  Reinsdorf would apparently prefer baseball’s owners should themselves decide the future MLB leadership.  Or at least that he should have a strong influence on the outcome.

This is all reeks of political maneuvering, but it’s intriguing nonetheless.  Reinsdorf “had never said a bad word about Bud,” according to the article, but Schmidt indicates he, unlike Selig, is favorable of a more forceful stance when it comes to negotiations with the players’ union, and says Reinsdorf has even suggested he himself run the league with “two others” rather than installing a new permanent commissioner.  That Reinsdorf would propose that ownership have a more democratic say in appointing the new MLB commissioner is one thing.  A three-headed rotation of leaders seems a bit radical, even considering past controversies regarding commissioners in baseball who have often been champions/puppets of the owners.  Presumably, if Reinsdorf himself would become part of the commissioner’s office, he would have to sell the White Sox, but of course we know that (the men that control) baseball can delay things when desired.   

The most interesting takeaway is that Reinsdorf, who like Selig is pushing 80 years of age, feels he would lose his powerful, helpful ties to the commissioner’s office after so many years should Manfred takeover.  It is reported that Manfred and Reinsdorf are not close.  Furthermore, there is a notion here that Selig may continue to rule in an absentee fashion after officially retiring.  As in, Manfred would be the figurehead atop the league as commissioner but Darth Selig would call the ultimate shots from his Milwaukee office.  This is what some owners apparently fear regarding the changes they want to enact seeing the light of day.  Despite potential policy differences with Manfred going forward, the owners could find that Selig hasn’t really given up his sway at all, only executed it more remotely.  After wielding the power of MLB commissioner for 20-plus years, Selig may be more interested in keeping that wand in his pocket after all, but more discreetly.