FanDuel - WFBC

August 11, 2014

Red Sox owner Tom Werner has become a dark horse candidate to be baseball's next commissioner: Co-owner John Henry says, "Tom is one of the most popular owners because he's very passionate about baseball, has a sense of duty, as evidenced by his work with veterans and the Red Sox Foundation, and because he is trusted by everyone who knows him. You won't find a more popular person in the television industry." Left unsaid: the Red Sox and a few other teams don't want Selig's lieutenant Rob Manfred taking over because they feel he will make them pay their fair share of TV revenues.

posted by yerfatma to baseball at 01:58 PM - 6 comments

Tom Werner could well become a disaster as Commissioner of Baseball. His work with Boston is an example of why this might be. Werner's ideas of making the Red Sox a prime sports attraction have little to do with making the team better. Rather, his ideas are all about "game presentation", the myth of Fenway Park's historical value, and selling the idea of coming to Fenway as an "in thing" to the pink hat group. After the 2011 late-season collapse and the Bobby Valentine debacle of 2012, the World Series win of 2013 was aberrant. 2013 was supposed to be a year during which the young talent developed in the minors while a few established stars (Pedroia, Ortiz, Ellsbury, Lester) gave the team enough cachet to keep the turnstiles moving. Somehow, the rest of the roster had career years, the AL East was weak, and the accident happened.

During the off-season, the decision was made to try to go "on the cheap" for 2014. Rather than keep Ellsbury, albeit at a high price, they let him go, Lester was offered an insult for a contract, the ensuing negotiations were a sham, and Lester was traded. They got a good piece for him in Cespedes, but how long will he be kept? Nelson Cruz was available at a good price, but Grady Sizemore was on the bargain rack. The results are obvious. Young players like Bradley and Bogaerts are playing regularly, but show signs of having needed more time to develop. This is true of the young pitching as well, as the results for de la Rosa and others show flashes of real talent along with much inconsistency.

I don't blame Werner for all of this, but John Henry does not have enough of a baseball background to be making these decisions all by himself. I doubt that Ben Cherington, Sox' General Manager, has the autonomy to make all these moves by himself, so it would appear that Werner has had a big part.

If Werner becomes commissioner, I can see every team having to have an annoying mascot that is given a feature role during games, each team will be required to have some sort of song used as an anthem at some point during the game, gimmicks will become the order of the day, and good, old-fashioned baseball will be secondary.

I think I'm in one of my "Get off the lawn, you damned kids" moods. It feels good to rant sometimes.

posted by Howard_T at 04:16 PM on August 11

Yeah, I can appreciate your rant, but I think your fears are unfounded.

First, a poo-flinging monkey would be an improvement over Selig, so I don't think Werner would be that bad. Second, while Werner might have done some things as Sox owner you don't approve of- and if there's one thing sabermetrics should teach us, it's that results-based assessment is risky- he did bring not one, not two, but three World Series trophies to Boston in the span of 10 years, and kept that lovely little bandbox of a park full for hundreds of games in a row. Third, if he became commissioner, it's not like he'd have the authority, or desire, to remake every team in his own image.

The TV revenue thing is meaningful if he'd oppose that, since I do believe the ideal end state (or near end state) for leagues like MLB is to have parity revenue sharing and a more rotisserie like model, where players are paid for what they do out of a general league pool that is based on a percentage of total revenue (to some extent, I believe this is what the NBA does; every team has a salary cap based on something like 58% of total revenue, and there's revenue sharing to keep it fairly balanced). But I also think he'd be less likely to do things like call a "tie" in an All-Star game. So, you know, win some, lose some...

posted by hincandenza at 08:54 PM on August 11

When I was in law school, Peter Gammons came in and spoke for some Sports and Entertainment Law-type organization and he brought (or the organization brought) Rob Manfred with him, together with Donald Fehr. There was some good "inside baseball" stuff from Gammons -- two I remember: (1) GWB, who was President at the time, might have never "owned" the Rangers but for Reinsdorf, which obviously burnished GWB's resume on his way to the Texas governorship and then the White House (talk about an OMFG game of "what if"); and (2) Billy Koch, then a closer for the White Sox, when in college as a drafted Junior (still eligible to hold out for more and come back to be redrafted as a Senior if he did not sign) allegedly found out from his agent he got what he wanted from the Blue Jays while taking a test at Clemson and promptly got up, went up to the proctor, handed in an unfinished exam and said "See you in the Big Leagues, man" and walked out. People were there to see Gammons, but Manfred provided some good color on labor relations, the business of baseball, etc. He struck me as a good lawyer, but largely a bureaucrat.

That view of Manfred (as an MLB guy, but not necessarily an "owners' guy") ties into one subtext here that I'm not sure has really been fleshed out in what I've read -- and that is what the commissioner of baseball is meant to be. In the past, commissioners were largely "independent" individuals who came from outside of baseball (or outside of baseball prior to being a league president, like Bart Giamatti) and were viewed as "honest brokers" who could help find peace and a middle ground between owners and players. Selig changed all that, and this succession battle, to me, is a now a battle over whether the owners feel they have a right to effectively assign someone from "ownership" to the commissioner's office vs. someone whose interests are more neutral or ambiguous (although, as has been noted in various analysis of this situation, Manfred has done a pretty good job of fighting the owners' fights). Should be an interesting process.

posted by holden at 11:00 PM on August 11

Werner's ideas of making the Red Sox a prime sports attraction have little to do with making the team better.

86 years without a World Series victory, then 3 in 10 years. The Red Sox have, more than any time in recent history, been spectacularly 'better'. There's really no argument to the contrary. And to be a 'prime sports attraction', you must also win. To claim he's trying to do one without the other simply defies logic.

Rather, his ideas are all about "game presentation", the myth of Fenway Park's historical value

I completely understand and even sympathize with those that believe Fenway should be torn down and a new state of the art park with leg room and home plate facing seats be built, but to many, Fenway does have 'historical value'. There's nothing mythic about it. It's not like everyone hated Fenway and then Werner convinced them otherwise.

"and selling the idea of coming to Fenway as an "in thing" to the pink hat group."

I think the whole 'pink hats' things has been over done and for the most part is silly, but I've learned not to argue about it. But if anyone in charge of an MLB team is not marketing to every type of fan, including those that might not live for baseball, in a world with so many entertainment choices, they are not doing their job (and shouldn't be considered for commissioner).

2013 was supposed to be a year during which the young talent developed in the minors while a few established stars (Pedroia, Ortiz, Ellsbury, Lester) gave the team enough cachet to keep the turnstiles moving. Somehow, the rest of the roster had career years, the AL East was weak, and the accident happened.

I've heard this a lot recently, that somehow the Red Sox got lucky. If you condemn ownership when they lose, you've got to give them credit when their choices work.

The AL East was weak? Still had to make it through the rest of the playoffs and World Series. And a good team takes advantage of a week division.

the rest of the roster had career years

Here's the 2013 Red Sox lineup. Saltalamacchia had a good year. I guess you could call it career. He also wasn't the starting catcher by the time the World Series was over. Napoli career year? Nope. Pedroia? Nope. Drew? Middlebrooks? Gomes? Ellsbury? Victorino? Nope. Ortiz had a great year, but not career.

Pitching? No starting pitcher had a career year except Buchholz, who also missed much of the season. Uehara had a career year as a closer. They deserve credit for picking him up (the Red Sox 3rd closer after the first two were injured for the year).

The 2013 Red Sox team was deep, and talented up and down the lineup. The could beat you several ways. But they weren't a team of career years by any stretch. Lucky? Of course luck played a part. As it does to any team that wins the World Series.

During the off-season, the decision was made to try to go "on the cheap" for 2014.

Who should they have given big contracts to?

Rather than keep Ellsbury, albeit at a high price, they let him go

A smart move in my eyes, and one I still support. Put Ellsbury's current stats in this lineup and the Red Sox are still going nowhere.

Lester was offered an insult for a contract, the ensuing negotiations were a sham, and Lester was traded. They got a good piece for him in Cespedes, but how long will he be kept?

I don't know that it was the insult you believe it was, but regardless, power is in short supply. I don't really have a problem with this trade, but even if it was a mistake, way too early to point at it as a mistake by the front office.

Nelson Cruz was available at a good price

34. Don't give sluggers half way to 40 big contracts unless you're David Ortiz.

but Grady Sizemore was on the bargain rack. The results are obvious.

Yeah, didn't work out. Didn't lose much either though. Besides, if we're going to blame the front office when low risk deals don't work, we need to give them credit when they do, as they did multiple times in 2013.

I honestly have no idea of Tom Werner will make a good commissioner or not, and if I'm coming off as a huge fan of his, I'm not. But I fail to see how anything he did with the Red Sox would point to no, and Selig has set the bar so low I can only see him being an improvement.

There's a segment of Red Sox fans that are nostalgic for the days Fenway was filled with die hard fans and empty seats and a lot of 'get 'em next year'. I'm not one of those fans. The last 10 years has been pretty awesome, and for whatever hand Werner had during that time, I'm thankful.

The biggest mistake by the current front office was the Carl Crawford contract (which I approved of when it happened -- what do I know), which they thankfully solved by finding a sucker to take him off their hands.

posted by justgary at 11:37 PM on August 11

But I fail to see how anything he did with the Red Sox would point to no, and Selig has set the bar so low I can only see him being an improvement.

That feels like begging the question though: did he have anything to do with the roster moves? He was there to add cash to the purchase and then be the media guy— if he were a brilliant baseball mind wouldn't he still own the Padres? I think Howard's complaint is more about things like the puke-inducing reach of a claim "America's Most Beloved Ballpark™©®" than the idea that Fenway is an iconic spot.

posted by yerfatma at 09:48 AM on August 12

if he were a brilliant baseball mind wouldn't he still own the Padres?

It's been almost 20 years, and the mid-90's fire sale still makes me burn with rage.

posted by LionIndex at 12:58 PM on August 14

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