The final vote did not come easy, but Major League Baseball chief operating officer Robert D. Manfred finally achieved the necessary super-majority early Thursday night to become the the 10th commissioner of baseball.
Manfred, who helped steer the sport through its most volatile labor period and has been a pivotal figure in the game's war on performance-enhancing drugs, was considered the heavy favorite to succeed Allan H. "Bud" Selig when the selection process entered its final stage during the two-day quarterly owners meeting at the Baltimore Hyatt Regency.
There were some tense moments as the owners voted several times before Manfred got the approval of 23 of the 30 clubs, but Selig and the owners took one more ballot to make the election unanimous after the outcome was assured.
"We had a very lengthy day, an interesting day where we had a significant number of votes, but in the end, the vote was unanimous, 30-0," Selig said. "The process is complete…Even though there were differences of opinion, in the end we came together as we always do."
Manfred, 55, has worked with or in the commissioner's office since the late 1980s, most notably serving as outside counsel to Major League Baseball during the sport's most damaging labor war in 1994-95. He was hired full-time in 1998, the same year that Selig was named permanent commissioner after acting in that role since 1992. He became Selig's heir-apparent when he was named COO in 2013.
He was introduced to the media after the final vote by St. Louis Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt, who chaired the succession committee that narrowed the list of candidates to Manfred, MLB executive vice president Tim Brosnan and Boston Red Sox president Tom Werner. DeWitt wasted no time reminding Manfred that he will have a tough act to follow.
"In the end, Rob Manfred was elected because of his dynamic leadership, his passion for the game, his overall ability to deal with labor issues,'' DeWitt said. "Rob is the 10th commissioner. I would be remiss if I didn't say he's following in big footsteps. Bud is the ninth commissioner and he will go down as being the greatest commissioner in baseball history."
That evaluation will be left to baseball historians, but Manfred did not shy away from his long association with Selig and the outgoing commissioner's impact on his rise to one of the most powerful positions in professional sports.
"I think probably the single biggest challenge is filling the shoes of the gentleman that stands to my right (Selig)," Manfred said. "He has established a great tradition of unity among the 30 clubs and I'm going to work very hard to maintain that tradition of unity as we try to move the game forward."
If Manfred's election was the expected result when the two-day meeting began early Wednesday morning, there was enough internal MLB intrigue to keep the outcome from being a foregone conclusion.
There was speculation last week that a rift had formed between Selig — who was widely believed to favor Manfred — and powerful Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf that might keep Manfred from getting the approval of at least 23 clubs.
The rumors were pervasive enough that both Selig and Reinsdorf made public statements denying any animosity between them, but it was pretty obvious that a stalemate had developed during the early part of Thursday's nine-hour meeting.
Though Brosnan reportedly removed himself from consideration before the first ballot, it did not change the overall dynamic. Werner received more than seven votes and the owners failed to reach a 75 percent consensus for several hours, finally announcing a breakthrough just before 6 p.m.
"There was a long delay before the 23rd vote came in, but it did come in and it was expected it would come in," Orioles owner Peter Angelos said. "It started out he had a large majority, despite the excellent quality of the other two candidates...
"We supported Rob and we think he'll do a fine job. The other candidates were excellent also, but he's got the experience and everyone is looking to him to solve the problems that baseball has and to expand on the success of baseball."
Werner, who was a serious candidate but not a serious contender, accepted the result graciously.
"Of course, I'm slightly disappointed," Werner said, "but I think it was a very healthy couple of days and I was able to share my thoughts about how to move the game forward in a bunch of new areas, and I think people were receptive to my ideas and we all at the end voted unanimously to go forward with Rob and I'll do everything possible to support him and improve the game."
Manfred was short on specifics in his first news conference as commissioner-elect. He does not take office until January, so he didn't seem comfortable laying out a personal agenda while Selig serves out the rest of his term.
Instead, he seemed content to portray his role as building on the legacy of his long-time boss, since Selig has presided over the unprecedented economic growth of the game and several dynamic changes in the way it is played in the 21st century.
"I think the most striking thing for me the last couple of days is how passionate the owners are about the way the game is played, the business of baseball, and I think there's a huge amount of consensus about certain types of efforts that we will be undertaking to move the game forward," Manfred said. "I think, in particular, the modernization of the game as you saw with instant replay and innovations like that commissioner Selig has begun. I think the owners have a vision to continue to move forward."
At a glance
Name: Robert D. Manfred Jr.
Previous title: Major League Baseball chief operating officer
Law school: Harvard
Legal background: Partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP
Other MLB positions: Outside counsel during 1994-95 labor war; joined baseball full-time in 1998 as executive vice president of Economics and League Affairs; appointed COO by commissioner Bud Selig in 2013
Personal: Married with four childrenCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun