It’s still early, but the Nationals have committed the third-most errors in baseball. The Post Sports Live crew looks at whether a team with poor fielding can still realistically win the division. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig moved a step closer to the end of his 23-year tenure Thursday, announcing the formation of a seven-person search committee, made up of team owners, tasked with identifying his successor ahead of his scheduled January 2015 retirement.

“I know a lot of people, including my own family, have had a hard time accepting it,” Selig said of persistent speculation that he would remain as commissioner. “But 23 years is enough. I’ve accepted [the notion of retirement], frankly, over the last five or six months. I’m not sure this [announcement] is going to make it any more real.”

The committee, chaired by St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr., began meeting secretly this spring, and DeWitt vowed to conduct the search process in complete confidentiality. To that end, DeWitt declined to provide specific answers to questions about potential candidates or timetables.

The ideal next commissioner, DeWitt said, would be “a visionary leader who has passion for the game, and will look to maintain integrity of the game, grow the game of baseball and build on the tremendous achievements and legacy of” Selig.

Rob Manfred, baseball’s executive vice president for economics and league affairs, is viewed within the industry as the leading candidate to succeed his current boss, and Tim Brosnan, MLB’s executive vice president for business, is another strong internal candidate. Several prominent team owners and top executives could also be candidates, including Detroit’s Dave Dombrowski, Milwaukee’s Mark Attansio, Toronto’s Paul Beeston, Arizona’s Derrick Hall and Sandy Alderson of the New York Mets.

DeWitt would not say whether the committee — which also includes the owners of the Colorado Rockies, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Angels, Pittsburgh Pirates, Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox — would consider candidates from outside the sport’s current power structure. But there is certain to be speculation regarding former President George W. Bush, who owned the Texas Rangers prior to becoming governor of Texas.

Note: Selig said he is “very worried” about the increase in elbow injuries among young pitchers across baseball, but stopped short of advocating specific remedies.