A new MLB commissioner could be chosen on Thursday, provided a candidate receives 23 of the 30 owners votes. One of the finalists for the office Bud Selig is vacating is Boston Red Sox executive Tom Werner.
Werner was a surprise nomination, believed to be put in as someone who will take away votes from favorite Rob Manfred, though league brass has said he is a legitimate candidate. Regardless of his candidacy and how he got to this point, Werner certainly is not a bad option for baseball given the current state of affairs.
Like his candidacy for commish, it’s not known to many what the role of Werner exactly is within the Red Sox ownership. It’s believed that he plays a key role on the media side of the operation, particularly the running of the New England Sports Network, of which the Fenway Sports Group has an 80 percent stake.
Regardless of what his role is, what he’s done, what he’s said or how he’s perceived, Werner has played some kind of a role in what has been a very successful ownership regime over the past 12 years since buying the team along with John Henry and Larry Luchhino for $380 million in 2002. Over that period, the Red Sox brand has become internationalized, becoming more popular than it has ever been. Fenway Park has been revitalized, making a trip to the old yard more than just a ballgame — it was an event. NESN — again, Werner’s alleged main jurisdiction — has evolved into one of the most valuable regional sports networks in the world.
The Fenway Sports Group, regardless of what you may think of them, have taken the Red Sox to the next level. Aside from presiding over three World Series titles in a 10-year period after none over a period of 86, Henry & Co. have pushed the Red Sox into the 21st century. In revolutionizing the pair of red socks, they’ve embraced the new technologies of our modern day while understanding what the consumer is looking for.
What the Red Sox have done successfully is what the NFL and NBA have done successfully in taking their respective leagues to the next level. And it’s what MLB must now do in order to keep its place as the second-most valuable league of the big four.
So why not Werner to be the man who does that?
A man who is a media pioneer, Werner is one who is strong on the marketing, communication, TV and new media criteria that retiring commissioner Bud Selig says is needed. Through Werner’s work in Boston over the last 12 years, the ‘average fan’ has been pulled in.
And that is exactly what baseball needs at the moment — to pull the ‘average fan’ back in. The pace of play needs to improve, the game’s best players need to be marketed better, the game needs more offense and the game needs to be more exciting for television. The gap that exists between the AL and NL needs to be bridged with both leagues having the same rules.
MLB’s lucrative television deals with ESPN and Fox are up in 2021. The sport is currently at a crossroads and needs to get its act together if they want another big deal. If they don’t, baseball will be the Alex Rodriguez of TV deals five years from now.
Talk all you want about how he got nominated. Talk all you want about how he’s a token candidate. Talk all you want about how unknown his role is within the Red Sox ownership.
But if you really look into it, Werner as commish could be one of the best things to happen to baseball.