Phil Rogers

Building on Selig's success key for Manfred

Sustained growth, labor harmony, pace of game on Commissioner's agenda

Building on Selig's success key for Manfred

When Bud Selig took charge of Major League Baseball more than two decades ago, there was dysfunction throughout the game. The noise from the economic battleground reduced the serenity on the field and in the stands.

Baseball was unable to take advantage of opportunities for growth as a result of its ongoing labor wars, and everywhere he looked, there were issues in need of answers. Selig faced a huge task in getting his fellow owners to work with each other, as well as their players.

Things are far better these days on those fronts. But Rob Manfred, baseball's Commissioner-elect, might face an even tougher challenge when he takes over for Selig in January. Manfred has to find ways to build off the success MLB has experienced during Selig's tenure, and he knows it won't be easy. That said, he is as well prepared as he can be, having been groomed for the job by Selig.

"There's no question I would not be standing here today if not for Bud," Manfred said after being elected as Selig's successor on Thursday. "I hope that I will perform as the 10th Commissioner in a way that will add to his legacy."

Manfred, who has served baseball as its chief operating officer and its head of labor relations, has spoken only in general terms about his priorities as Commissioner. He'll likely give more specific ideas about what he is thinking sometime after the postseason and out of respect for Selig, who will remain as baseball's voice through Jan. 24, 2015, when he leaves office.

Manfred worked alongside Selig in establishing labor peace. He will oversee the next round of labor negotiations in 2016 -- the first for the Major League Baseball Players Assocation under the leadership of Tony Clark, who replaced the late Michael Weiner. The new Commissioner will also work to refine baseball's replay system, which was installed this season.

"I think the most striking thing for me the last couple of days was how passionate the owners are about how the game is played, the business of baseball," Manfred said. "I think there's a huge amount of consensus about certain types of efforts we will be undertaking to move the game forward. In particular, the modernization of replay that you saw under Commissioner Selig has begun. I think the owners have a vision of the game continuing to move forward in that vein."

Selig initially resisted widespread use of replay, feeling it would impact the pace of play. The game has slowed down, and within meeting rooms at the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore, there was a lot of talk about the need to increase the pace of games.

Manfred seems certain to tackle that initiative, with the assistance of Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations.

Selig often talked about ways to speed up games. Manfred has an opportunity to make an immediate imprint by implementing changes that eliminate dead time.

Phillies chairman Bill Giles, who has worked under every Commissioner since Happy Chandler, sets an ambitious goal for Manfred in that area.

"I think we need to speed up the game a little bit," Giles said, putting the target at reducing "our three-hour-plus games down to 2:30 or 2:40."

Under Selig, MLB joined with the players union to create the World Baseball Classic. MLB has moved season-opening series to Japan and Australia, and it is exploring the possibility of games in Europe.

Tom Werner, who was a finalist to replace Selig as Commissioner, emphasized the need to make baseball more entertaining for younger fans. The Red Sox ownership group that includes Werner has done a good job of modernizing Fenway Park, the club's 102-year-old home, and he believes there are subtle ways in which MLB can improve how the game is presented.

"It's always good to continue to innovate," Werner said. "I think we need to do a good job capturing the youth, and we can always be better. … I think Rob agrees with me. I'm very confident that we're going to see some things like improved pace of play."

Selig appeared excited and relaxed as he left Baltimore, and why not? He and his staffers have done a lot of heavy lifting while working alongside the changing cast of owners since 1992. The time is fast approaching to turn that work over to the candidate he identified as his ideal successor.

It will be bittersweet, at best, for most inside baseball to see Selig begin the retirement he was talked out of for much of the last decade. But it will also be fascinating to see what Manfred does to make the industry even better.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.