MLB executive Rob Manfred becomes the game’s next commissioner

Major League Baseball owners on Thursday selected Rob Manfred, MLB’s chief operating officer and longtime right-hand man to outgoing commissioner Bud Selig, as the game’s next commissioner.

Despite opposition from a handful of owners, most notably Jerry Reinsdorf of the Chicago White Sox, Manfred received at least the required 23 votes to become baseball’s 10th commissioner. Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner and MLB executive vice president of business Tim Brosnan also were candidates, all three identified as such by a Selig-appointed search committee. Brosnan withdrew his name before owners cast their votes, so the final decision was between Manfred and Werner.

The owners met into the early evening in Baltimore after the first returns had Manfred within a vote or two of approval. At about 6 p.m. ET, and after many meetings of the full membership and breakoff groups, enough owners had flipped their votes from Werner to Manfred. At that point, the owners agreed to make the vote unanimous, and announced it as 30-0 for Manfred.

“I have to say, I’m tremendously honored by the confidence that the owners showed in me today,” Manfred said in an early evening press conference held with Selig and St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr., who chaired the search committee.

Manfred’s boss since Manfred was hired in 1998, Selig joked he was slightly uncomfortable with praising his employee, but continued: “There’s no doubt in my mind he has the training, the temperament, the experience to be a very, very successful commissioner. I have, justifiably, very high expectations.”

Manfred, 55, is a Harvard-educated lawyer who has headed the league’s labor, finance and drug-testing departments. Formerly executive vice president of labor relations, Manfred led the MLB side during collective bargaining against the players’ union in 2002, 2006 and 2011. Selig promoted Manfred to COO last September, a move widely viewed as an endorsement of Manfred’s designs to become the next commissioner.

Selig, who turned 80 in July, will step down in January after serving as commissioner for 22 years, the first six as acting commissioner. He presided over a period of unprecedented economic growth, revenue sharing, playoff expansion, the steroid era and, after a slow start, one of the tougher anti-drug programs in sports. On his watch, the 1994 World Series was lost because of a players strike, though the sport has been free of labor issues since. The current CBA will expire after the 2016 season and could pose one of Manfred’s early tests as commissioner.

While Selig often was depicted as the befuddled leader, he earned a reputation as a consensus builder in a game where 30 teams mean 30 personalities, 30 priorities and, often, 30 phone calls.

The league’s owners met this week in Baltimore to choose Selig’s successor. Amid reports Reinsdorf and Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno were rallying votes against Manfred and for Werner, each of the candidates gave presentations to the owners on Wednesday. Manfred was widely viewed as the status quo candidate, because of his tenure under Selig and having played a role in so many of the league’s key issues – labor and drugs, especially – over the past decade.

“In the end, Rob Manfred was elected because of his dynamic leadership, his passion for the game, his ability to lead the staff in New York, which he has done, and his overall ability to deal with labor issues and really all aspects of the game,” DeWitt said. “When we put together the requirements of the commissioner, he really checked all the boxes.”