I’ll admit it: I feel like a trendsetter most of the time.
Usually it’s how I justify to myself my terrible clothing taste, or bad haircut, or lack of interest in Breaking Bad, or why I don’t get invited to many social events. But this time, my friends, surely this trend will carry on, for at least a year! And it will all be because of me, or at least I will tell myself that.
So what trend is it that I’ll be initiating today? I’m going to abjectly speculate on who the next baseball commissioner should be. And I’m going to do it a year in advance, before you get tired of hearing all of the names mentioned that have no chance at ending up on the 31st floor of 245 Park Ave. So, without further ado, let’s begin speculation season, shall we?
One of the names surely to draw a lot of attention in the “Commish Search 2k14″ (as it will surely be named) is one Robert Q. Costas, known to many as NBC Sports Anchor Bob Costas. Bob has had a long love affair with baseball, including writing a 197 page manifesto of objective revelations in his year 2000 book, “Fair Ball: A Fan’s Case for Baseball.” For those that haven’t read it, it’s a fascinating read, even thirteen years after writing. In it, he proposes numerous ideas, many of which took over a decade to be implemented, such as instant replay in the playoffs (obviously still not fully implemented), daily interleague play to balance the size of each league, and even tweaks to the wild card system to punish teams for not winning their division, a practice that started in 2012.
In addition, as a baseball outsider (and by that I basically mean a non-owner or league official), Bob is able to objectively look at what is holding baseball back from a fan’s perspective, as well as some of the economic challenges. In the Selig administration, we saw the Brewers, formerly owned by Selig, move to the National League, conveniently bettering the revenue situation of the team, now having a well-traveling rival fan base only 90 miles to the south. In the Costas administration, the head of the organization would have no indirect benefits from having a team switch locales or leagues. While this may seem like an outside chance of occurrence, it brings me to my next point.
Bob Costas is well regarded by the league. Or at least, as a commentator. In a sport that has so heavily relied on voices, with Vin Scully, Jack Buck, and the like, Bob Costas served as the “voice of a generation” for a short period in the 80s and 90s when NBC had somewhat robust MLB coverage. Unfortunately now, Costas sits on the fringes of baseball, with a cameo gig at MLB Network, and the center of the NBC Sports lineup, which has not broadcast a Major League Baseball game this century. His position within the MLB organization (albeit somewhat marginalized on MLB Network) should position him well to take a visible post within the Major League Baseball Executive Suite.
The last item, the “not really an outsider but not really on the inside” element to Bob is surely what will do him in. The owners will largely want someone who will grow the game’s revenues, which doesn’t necessarily mean “make the sport more enjoyable for the fans.” The precedent has largely been set, such as the addition of interleague play, which resulted in attendance spikes for the first 5 or so years, but have since returned to pre-interleague levels (outside of a few regional rivalry games). A short term revenue increase is seen as a valuable addition to the sport, rather than the long term viability of America’s pastime. This obviously is not a phenomenon unique to baseball, but one with which baseball struggles more than its sporting counterparts.
The only unfortunate thing is for us fans is that the man most suited to resolve those philosophical struggles is the one most likely to be relegated to covering the appointment of the new Commissioner on the league’s own television network.