I am back from vacation, so I’ll be resuming more regular posting.
Over at Sports Law Blog, Howard Wasserman has the following “random prediction for the New Year: George W. Bush will be the next Commissioner of Major League Baseball.”
Wasserman makes the following case:
“Current Commissioner Bud Selig announced
earlier this month that he will retire when his contract expires at the end of
2009 (although apparently, back in in 2003 he said the same thing about
retiring in 2006, so stay tuned). Bush will be out of a job at 12:01 p.m. on
January 20, 2009. And he will need something to do, since one cannot imagine
him monitoring foreign elections and fighting world health battles.
Baseball commissioner always has been a job that has attracted people from politics and public service. Commissioner A.B. "Happy" Chandler served as Kentucky's Governor and U.S. Senator both before and after his term in baseball. Chief Justice Fred Vinson considered resigning from the Supreme Court to take the job after Chandler's term ended in 1951. Names such as Mario Cuomo and George Mitchell have surfaced in the past as potential candidates. And, of course, Bush used to own the Texas Rangers, so he combines a political background with baseball-insider status, which would make him very appealing to the owners.”
Wasserman also notes that Bush apparently expressed interest in the job back in the early 1990s, before Bud Selig led a palace coup against Fay Vincent and became commissioner and Bush decided to run for governor of Texas.
I know Wasserman’s having some fun here, but there are a few reasons why I think such a turn is unlikely.
First, back in the early 1990s, in the shadow of the brief, but high profile commissionership of A. Bartlett Giamatti, it was easier to imagine baseball commissioner as something of a celebrity position. But, given the increasing business stakes in all professional sports, there is more of a premium on having a capable technocrat to guide themajor sports leagues. With ever greater pressure to troll new revenue streams to slake the multi-billion dollar thirst of the owners, it’s important for commissioners to be skilled in labor negotiations, savvy about new business possibilities and new technologies and, it would appear, to be hands-on when it comes to over-seeing those ventures. If we’ve learned anything about President Bush, it’s that he is notably unable or unwilling to give the kind of attention to detail and conscientious monitoring of nitty-gritty policy processes required of a good manager of a bureaucracy. Unless he were purely a figurehead, he’d be a poor fit for the job based on his temperament and skill sets.
Second, he would be a less than ideal figure head at this point. What Bush might have brought to the office in the early 1990s was a famous name and a reputation as a popular part owner of the Texas Rangers. In other words, to the extent that he had a public profile at that time, it was an innocuous one. In fact, it’s likely that Bush had no negative ratings to speak of in the court of public opinion. If he’s not going to be skilled manager sitting atop a multi-billion dollar enterprise, he would need to bring a popular profile to the table. This, it can safely be said, Bush no longer has. Yes, he’s now perhaps the most well known person in the world, but he’s also wildly unpopular, and would bring to baseball all sorts of needless controversy and antipathy.
Third, Bush isn’t really a serious baseball person. If he had a detailed knowledge of the business side, or a particular aptitude as a negotiator, as David Stern did when he took over the NBA, Bush’s lack of depth of knowledge of the sport would be less of an issue. But, absent a skill set suited to the position, and as a very unpopular person, the only remaining justification would be if Bush had special knowledge of the game. But, he doesn’t. He’s a fan, and he spent a few years as the public face of the Rangers’ ownership group in the early 1990s, a position which helped facilitate their sweetheart deal with the city of Arlington to build the Ballpark. But, Bush was not meaningfully involved in day-to-day operations and certainly not personnel matters.
In other words, he’d be a poor choice on almost all relevant grounds. Wasserman’s right – it’s hard to imagine Bush devoting himself seriously to the causes that have engaged former Presidents Carter and Clinton, or his own father, for that matter. But, baseball is a serious business requiring a serious and dedicated leader. Bush is not that guy.