Commissioner search may pick up in summer Selig favorite despite not being interested

March 18, 1998|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Colorado Rockies owner Jerry McMorris said yesterday that the search for a permanent commissioner of baseball could take a significant step forward this summer.

McMorris, who heads ownership's commissioner search committee, briefed Major League Baseball's ruling Executive Council last night as the owners began their three-day quarterly meeting at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort.

He is believed to be working with a list of candidates that includes at least five names, but indicated that it may be a lot shorter when the owners meet again in June.

"We'll be ready to make a recommendation before the next owners meeting," said McMorris.

Who will it be? The identity of the next commissioner has been the subject of ongoing speculation for several years. The list of rumored candidates has included such high-powered figures as former Senate majority leader George Mitchell and Texas governor George W. Bush, but the favorite still appears to be interim commissioner Bud Selig, who continues to insist that he isn't interested in the job.

The owners apparently don't believe him, because there is known to be a significant faction that favors the status quo.

Selig has been the temporary commissioner longer than anyone has held the permanent job since Bowie Kuhn spent 15 years in office from 1969 to 1984. He is a consensus builder who is considered a safe choice because of his loyalty to the game's entrenched power structure.

Selig would only say that the owners are moving ahead aggressively and would likely come to a decision before the end of the year.

The commissioner search was just one of the items on last night's agenda. The owners discussed the upcoming vote on the sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers to media mogul Rupert Murdoch, got an update on the Minnesota Twins' stadium situation and pondered ways to reduce the length of games.

The hotel was abuzz with rumors of an attempt by Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner to convince his fellow owners to veto the sale of the Dodgers to NewsCorp, but the deal is expected to be approved.

Turner, who seldom attends ownership meetings, is scheduled to arrive today, which was enough to fuel speculation of a last-ditch effort to keep Murdoch on the sidelines.

Twins officials briefed the Executive Council on the status of negotiations to sell the club to North Carolina businessman Don Beaver. Club president Jerry Bell said afterward that nothing is close to being finalized, but left little hope of coming to an agreement with state and local officials in Minnesota to build a new baseball-only stadium.

"We're not pursuing anything in Minnesota as far as a new stadium is concerned," Bell said.

Selig joined in the drumbeat, warning of the dire consequences for the Twins if they continue to play in the Metrodome.

"That club can't survive without a new stadium," Selig said. "It can't generate enough revenue to survive. They're obviously very concerned. I'm very concerned. I'm more concerned about this than any stadium situation we've had in the past."

The slow pace of major-league games has become a persistent problem that the owners again intend to address in 1998. Former Orioles manager Frank Robinson, now commissioner of the Arizona Fall League, has been summoned to St. Petersburg to make a presentation on the speed-up rules that have been implemented in the off-season baseball program.

Pub Date: 3/18/98

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