National League President Leonard Coleman, one of the highest ranking black officials in professional sports, has decided to resign, according to baseball sources. He apparently intends to remain on the job until after the World Series, but an announcement could be made next week.
Commissioner Bud Selig has only begun to compile a list of possible replacements. Among the names being mentioned by officials today as possible replacements were former New York Yankees general manager Bob Watson and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson.
Coleman, 50, declined to comment or confirm his resignation, but sources familiar with his thinking said he's leaving because of unhappiness over changes in the commissioner's office that would dilute his power. He's also upset that baseball's affirmative action program has failed to put more minorities in prominent jobs.
When Coleman was hired in 1994, his authority included dealing with umpires and disciplining players in his league. League presidents could lose control over both those areas if owners approve a plan being endorsed by the commissioner's office at next week's baseball meetings in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Under the reorganization, umpires from both leagues will answer to the commissioner's office instead of the league presidents. The commissioner's office also might handle discipline issues for both leagues.
If the league presidents are stripped of both roles, Coleman apparently believes the role of league president will be mostly ceremonial.
Selig declined to comment, and several National League executives said they were unaware that Coleman intended to resign. However, a source said Coleman has been discussing a settlement of his contract for several weeks.
American League President Gene Budig apparently will remain on the job.
Selig began restructuring his office shortly after being named permanent commissioner last year. Last fall, he hired three executive vice presidents who were to report to Paul Beeston, baseball's chief operating officer.
The most prominent of those hires was Sandy Alderson, the former president and general manager of the Oakland Athletics. He was given control of most baseball matters, including the umpires.
Bob DuPuy, Selig's attorney, was named chief legal officer. Rob Manfred, a labor lawyer whose firm represented baseball, was hired to head labor and human resources.
Beeston, DuPuy, Alderson and Manfred were in charge of baseball strategy during a recent labor fight with umpires.