Cardinals' chairman Bill DeWitt says he is not interested in succeeding Bud Selig as baseball's next commissioner. (File)
By Rob Rains
JUPITER, Fla. – Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. believes Bud Selig is serious about following through with his plans to retire as baseball commissioner next January.
DeWitt knows it will not be an easy job selecting somebody to follow Selig after his 22 years in office, the second longest tenure of a commissioner in the sport’s history. He also knows that that somebody will not be him.
There have been suggestions recently by a couple of national media outlets that DeWitt could be a possibility for the job.
Thanks but no thanks, he said.
“I have read that once or twice but I am not a candidate,” DeWitt said. “I’m real happy with the Cardinals. It’s flattering for someone to mention it, but I think what I am doing now is what I love doing.”
There are no clear-cut candidates to replace Selig, who will turn 80 later this year. That has also led to suggestions that perhaps Selig could be convinced by the owners – as has happened twice before – to again put off his retirement.
DeWitt does not see that happening.
“I think he’s committed this time,” DeWitt said, knowing that Selig prefers to leave before the next round of negotiations with the players begins next year about the collective bargaining agreement which expires in 2016.
“That and going out on top, no question about it,” DeWitt said. “He’s done a wonderful job and baseball is in a good place and he deserves to have a little time to himself to do some other things.”
DeWitt is a member of baseball’s Executive Council, which will be “a part” of the process in the hiring of a new commissioner, he said. That process has not begun.
“The entire process has not been fully developed,” DeWitt said. “There are no upcoming meetings set. We always meet when the big group meets and the next scheduled meeting is in May in New York. It’s possible we will meet before then.”
The hardest part of selecting Selig’s replacement will be getting a consensus of 24 owners to agree. That was where the suggestion about DeWitt being a candidate sprouted, with insiders suggesting he could get that majority support from fellow owners.
“I’m sure it won’t be easy,” DeWitt said. “There are 30 owners and all of them have different views about how things should be done, and what the priorities are. But in the end it will work itself out.”
Besides the fact he enjoys owning the Cardinals, DeWitt believes the owners will look for someone who is younger than himself – he is 72 – for the job.
“Whoever is named this time will be a younger person who figures to be in that position for some time,” DeWitt said.
Selig owned the Milwaukee Brewers and had to divest himself from that position before becoming commissioner, first on an interim basis, in 1992 and then accepting the job full-time in 1998.
DeWitt has been the majority owner of the Cardinals since his group purchased the team from Anheuser-Busch in 1995. He previously was a part of ownership groups in Cincinnati, Baltimore and Texas.
Some of the names that have come up as possible commissioner candidates and Rob Manfred and Tim Brosnan, currently MLB executives in the commissioner’s office, Tigers’ president Dave Dombrowski and former U.S. President George W. Bush, who owned the Rangers when DeWitt was part of that group.
History lessons for players?
When the player’s union conducted its annual meeting with the Cardinals last week, one of the former players in attendance, now working for the union, was Hall of Famer Dave Winfield.
There was at least one current member of the Cardinals who did not know who he was.
This is not new – when a young black player came up to the Cardinals in the 1980s, he said he had never heard of Jackie Robinson.
In Baltimore’s camp this spring, when manager Buck Showalter found out that there was a young player who didn’t know about Frank Robinson, he made the player research him and turn in a paper about him.
Should baseball teams do a better job educating their players, especially in the minor leagues, about the history of the game?
“I think they would be interested in some of the older players and some of the things they did,” said Matt Holliday. “Winfield was drafted in three professional sports. I think they would find that interesting.”
Holliday knew more than most players about the history of the game because he grew up in a baseball family. Some players don’t have that luxury.
“Some people play baseball because they are good at it,” he said. “It doesn’t mean they have a passion for the history of the game.”
The Cardinals as an organization do a better job than most about educating their minor-league players in many off-the-field aspects of being a professional baseball player.
One night this week was devoted to character-building in a meeting at the team’s hotel. The organization has English classes for Latin players throughout the season. Players are taught about nutrition and taking care of themselves physically.
As far as teaching them the team’s history, director of player development Gary LaRocque believes the young players get that through working with the instructors who come to spring training and make appearances during the season at the various affiliates.
“What we feel responsible for here is to have our history in front of the kids,” he said. “We want them to know who are players are, were, all that. We have to deal with Cardinal history, and we do, and we feel good about that.
“We want our players to embrace the history here because it is tremendous. The kids have to understand. Willie McGee is here helping them. Jason Isringhausen is here helping them. On the major-league field not too far away there’s Lou Brock and Bob Gibson. We ask them to talk to the kids. Jim Edmonds is here. We feel pretty fortunate. We want them to appreciate the history that’s here. It’s a big part of what we do.”
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