Owners are in no hurry to find boss Committee focuses on who, not when

February 18, 1993|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer

PHOENIX -- Major League Baseball owners did not pick a new commissioner yesterday or even set a timetable for choosing one.

But in the slow-moving world of the owners, where lesser decisions can take months, or even years, the search process inched ahead.

On the final day of the two-day meetings, the committee whose job it is to evaluate candidates and recommend finalists met for the first time.

The committee's chairman, Atlanta Braves chairman Bill Bartholomay, wouldn't speculate on when a new commissioner might be hired. Instead, he said the group would focus on finding the right person.

"There is no specific time frame. We're trying to choose the ninth commissioner of baseball, however long that takes," Bartholomay said. "We're choosing someone who will be with us a long period of time. It's serious stuff."

Baseball has been without a commissioner since the owners forced the resignation of Fay Vincent last September. Since then, the closest thing to a commissioner has been Milwaukee Brewers president Bud Selig, who is chairman of the executive council, baseball's ruling body.

Apparently, there is no shortage of applicants for the job. Bartholomay said baseball has received inquiries from hundreds of would-be commissioners.

For a few reasons, its unlikely that a commissioner will be hired soon. Before the owners can fill the post, they must agree on how to define the duties of the next person and the authority of the office.

During the terms of the first eight commissioners, the clout of the office was regarded as absolute. Commissioners couldn't be fired during their terms and were given a free hand to act in the "best interests" of baseball.

After Vincent, that is likely to change. As the owners mull the next commissioner, they also have formed a committee on restructuring, which is expected to recommend that several top jobs be redefined.

The report of the restructuring committee is nearly completed, said Selig, who added he expected it would hit his desk "in the next day or two."

Can the search committee complete its work before the owners have fully digested the recommendations of the restructuring committee?

Probably not, said Bartholomay.

"It's pretty hard to pick who you want in the job before you have defined the job," he said.

These owners meetings, called chiefly to discuss labor matters, produced a few other developments.

Among them: former Cincinnati Reds general manager Dick Wagner has been appointed to a new post in which he will run the commissioner's office on a temporary basis. Wagner will report to Toronto Blue Jays chairman Peter Widdrington, who also is taking on administrative duties until a permanent commissioner is picked. The extra help is needed now, in part, because deputy commissioner Steve Greenberg is resigning effective April 1.

The owners are scheduled to meet again in two weeks, also in Phoenix.

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