Reading up on who Rob Manfred is and what he’s all about, I couldn’t escape an analogy with “The Godfather” (if you know me, you probably know that this happens a lot).
Manfred was elected unanimously by the 30 Major League Baseball owners to succeed Bud Selig as commissioner on Thursday.
If Selig was the Don, then Manfred, promoted to chief operating officer last September, was Tom Hagen, his top lawyer.
I picture Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, a candidate for commissioner who supposedly represented the remainder of hardline owners intent on weakening the players’ union, as Santino Corleone.
Perhaps at some point in the last 20 years, Manfred told the owners, “You’ve got some labor trouble coming up. I promise to make that trouble disappear. You have a top star who makes a lot of money, but he just graduated from ‘the clear’ to human growth hormone . . .”
Perhaps at some point in the last 20 years, this conversation took place:
Hardline owners: “No, no, no! No more! Not this time, Consigliere! No more meetings! No more discussions! No more Donald Fehr tricks! You give ‘em one message — I want Fehr. If not, it’s all-out war, we go to the mattresses.”
Manfred: “Some of the other owners won’t sit still for all-out war!”
Hardliners: “Then they hand me Fehr!”
Manfred: “Bud would want to hear this. This is business, not personal.”
I didn’t really know anything about Manfred when his name came up, but a little research convinced me that, although he is chosen by the owners, his election is good news for baseball fans.
That’s because major league baseball has avoided labor strife for 20 years, in large part because of Manfred’s influence.
Remember that time when the World Series didn’t happen?
Remember when that stupid thing happened?
That was 1994, and Manfred was hired four years later to be baseball’s executive vice president for labor relations and human resources.
Since then, he has negotiated new collective bargaining agreements in 2002, 2006 and 2011 with a union that is considered the strongest of the four big professional mainstream sports. Manfred was also a key figure in the 2002 joint drug agreement during a Selig era that will largely be defined by the steroid scandals.
The next CBA is up for negotiation after the 2016 season, but the way things have been going for MLB, it’s difficult to imagine that either side would to want to start trouble again and risk all this lucrative stability.
The owners paid dearly for their collusive ways of the 1980s, to the tune of a $280 million settlement of three separate cases in 1990, but weep not for them now.
Forbes magazine estimates that MLB franchises are worth an estimated $811 million each, up 9 percent from 2013.
The players, meanwhile, are reaping the benefits of no salary cap, with a luxury tax on owners.
The fact that it took several rounds of voting before Manfred got the necessary 23-vote majority for election shows that there is still a faction among the owners who want to risk this relationship and take on the union.
Wouldn’t that be fun for us folks, who would much rather just grab a hot dog and watch two teams bat it around than two groups of millionaires arguing over more money.
The fact that Manfred was elected tells us that cooler heads are more interested in business, and prosperity, as usual.
Pass the mustard. Oh, and Paulie . . . more wine.