There is a clear favorite in the pending vote to determine who replaces longtime commissioner Bud Selig, but the coronation of Major League Baseball chief operating officer Rob Manfred is not a foregone conclusion.
Baseball owners and their representatives convened at the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore on Wednesday for meetings and presentations in advance of Thursday’s vote. They will resume discussions Thursday morning before attempting to choose one of the three finalists -- Manfred, MLB vice president Tim Brosnan or Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner.
Though the majority of owners are expected to vote for Manfred to be the sport’s 10th commissioner, there is a chance that the selection process could stretch beyond the second day of baseball’s quarterly owners meeting and force the seven-man search committee to reconsider the list of candidates.
The new commissioner must receive a 75 percent super-majority to be elected, which means he must get a thumbs-up from 23 of the 30 teams. If that number is not reached, the owners will vote again until they consolidate behind one candidate or decide that any further vote would be futile.
Wednesday’s meetings broke up at about 5 p.m., and several owners expressed optimism that the decision would be made before they leave town.
“We’ve got three good candidates, so we’ll see," said St. Louis Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt, who chairs the selection committee. “I’m optimistic we’ll have a commissioner.”
San Francisco Giants president Larry Baer agreed, though no one was particularly committal as they left the second-floor ballroom to attend a dinner hosted by the Orioles at the B&O Warehouse.
“There were three good presentations … a lot of good stuff," Baer said. “I would assume [someone will be elected]. Why not? That’s what we’re here for.”
Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno, however, refused to handicap the election, telling a group of reporters, “I’m just one of 30,” while Oakland Athletics owner Lew Wolff said he hoped a commissioner would be elected Thursday but didn’t seem very confident about it.
When someone asked him if he thought baseball would be able to avoid an impasse at this important moment in baseball history, Wolff’s reply didn’t do anything to discourage the notion that there is still a chance that eight or more owners will vote for someone other than Manfred and stand firm in the ensuing ballots.
“I have no idea," Wolff said.
The Orioles are being represented at the meetings by managing partner Peter G. Angelos and his son, Louis Angelos, but neither was available for comment.
It’s possible to go down the list of major league franchises and pick out eight teams (including the Orioles) that might have reason to break ranks and vote against the candidate who is considered Selig’s top choice to carry on his legacy. But whether they would band together for more than a symbolic first ballot is impossible to predict.
That’s not a likely scenario. Baseball owners have shown during the Selig era that they place a high value on consensus, so they’ll likely find a way to smooth over any factional differences in time to introduce the sport’s new leader by midday Thursday and get out of town.
Despite lingering speculation about a possible attempt to block Manfred’s election, it would not be a major surprise if the owners require more than one ballot to elect him, then take a final vote to announce that he was elected unanimously.