Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball’s chief operating officer and a longtime right-hand man to Commissioner Bud Selig, was named the league’s new commissioner on Thursday after a vote of the league’s owners.
Manfred was unanimously elected by the league’s 30 owners. He withstood a challenge by Boston Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner, whose insurgent candidacy was spearheaded by owners of the Red Sox, Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels.
Tim Brosnan, MLB’s executive vice president of business, also was a finalist for the job before dropping his candidacy on Thursday, before voting began.
Here’s what we know about Rob Manfred:
Full name: Robert D. Manfred Jr.
Family: Manfred and his wife, Colleen, have four children.
Education: Manfred graduated from Cornell and then went on to Harvard Law School.
Manfred’s ascension to the league’s top job is seen as something of a validation of Selig’s legacy and a continuation of the MLB status quo. The league said as much in a news release announcing Manfred’s promotion to chief operating officer in September 2013, calling the move part of “the transition process in preparation” for Selig’s retirement in January.
Manfred has worked for MLB in an official capacity since 1998 after previously serving as an outside counsel to the league during the players’ strike of 1994-95, which led to the cancellation of the 1994 World Series. Supporters of his candidacy for commissioner (led by the New York Yankees) said his experience in shepherding the league through its labor issues – he helped forge new labor deals in 2002, 2006 and 2011, each time without a work stoppage – would be an asset when the MLB owners and players return to the bargaining table to negotiate a new deal after the league’s current collective bargaining agreement ends following the 2016 season.
But that willingness to work with the players divided the owners in the run-up to Thursday’s vote. Some owners – namely Jerry Reinsdorf of the Chicago White Sox and Arte Moreno of the Los Angeles Angels – thought Manfred was too conciliatory toward the players.
As Howard Bloom of the Sporting News points out, MLB is the only professional sports league without a salary cap, instead relying on a luxury tax in an attempt to keep teams from stockpiling talent. MLB is also the only league in which the balance of power rests with the players during labor negotiations. Manfred will need to rally the support of skeptical owners who see their compatriots in the NFL, NBA and NHL as having the upper hand over the players.
Manfred also helped develop the league’s drug-testing policy, considered one of the more stringent in professional sports.
As MLB chief operating officer, Manfred oversaw the day-to-day management of the commissioner’s office in New York (Selig, formerly the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, famously refused to move his office there, preferring to keep Milwaukee as his home base). “Manfred works closely with Club management executives and has addressed a variety of the industry’s economic, governance and policy issues, including the sport’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program,” MLB wrote in announcing Manfred as the league’s new COO.
But notice what isn’t mentioned in that job description, namely anything that has to do with how the game is presented, either at the stadium or on television. Manfred’s main challenge – apart from the upcoming labor talks – will be reversing the league’s stagnant attendance, declining television ratings and aging viewer demographics.
According to USA Today, “the next commissioner is expected to hire a high-level marketing leader.”