Sunday, January 3, 2010

A New Commissioner for Baseball

Ten Changes over the Next Decade for Baseball

#1: A New Commissioner for Baseball
This is an excellent starting point for this conversation because we already know that Bud Selig has decided to step down from his post as MLB Commissioner, a position that he has held since 1992. The decision that the owners make for his successor may also be the most important one made of the decade. As we have seen all throughout baseball history, the leadership of the players and the league have changed the game. Examples such as Kenesaw Landis (famous for stomping out the rival Federal League), Marvin Miller (Leader of the MLBPA and responsible for increasing player rights) and Bud Selig (Initiated the Wild Card, revenue sharing and steroid testing) exist as proof of the importance of this decision.

The coming decade could be an opportunity for baseball. Football has become America's favorite game to watch in recent years and they could be in for some trouble with a strike or lockout due to increasing player demands and under-publicized health issues for players (did you know that the average life-expectancy for an NFL player is their mid-fifties?). Baseball will have the opportunity at the end of the 2011 season to discuss substantial changes to the revenue system of the league. There has already been talks of salary cap, an international draft and hard caps for signing draft picks. All of which would substantially change the economic status of the game in favor of the league rather than the player. At the conclusion of those talks, Bud Selig will step down and Major League Baseball will appoint a new commissioner.

Likely, on Opening Day 2012 baseball will not have all three of those talking points installed in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. They may be lucky to have one based on the history of bargaining with the players. This means that the next commissioner will have a great deal of work on their hands to continue to impact the economics of the game. In addition, there may be more radical ideas to talk about such as shortening the season, the World Baseball Classic and so on, so forth. The most important rule is that leadership is going to have to be savvy and ready to legally out-maneuver the MLBPA while still keeping the integrity of the game in tact and the players on the field as expected by the fans. A work stoppage in baseball would be catastrophic, especially with the NFL having some problems under the surface. This could be a decade where the MLB picks up some lost ground to the NFL in terms of popularity outside of the Northeast.

Some names that I have heard tossed around have been: Cal Ripken Jr., John Schuerholz, and even George W. Bush. I feel as though those names would do a great job as being ambassadors to the game. I do not feel that is the proper direction for this decade. There are going to be significant changes being made to the game in the future. Having leadership with a strong legal background is going to be incredibly important to the game. Selecting the correct person is going to be important. Both lawyers, Marvin Miller battled Bowie Kuhn for years on making the right decisions for baseball. During that time, the players made significant gains in unionizing, opening free agency and arbitration. Major League Baseball will need to select its leader carefully after Bud Selig retires.

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