Rob Manfred has been formally confirmed as the new commissioner of Major League Baseball (MLB) at the organisation’s quarterly owners’ meeting.
Manfred was elected in August and has now been approved for a five-year term in the post, replacing long-serving Bud Selig, whose 22-years in charge of the league comes to an end in January.
Before taking on the role of MLB chief operating officer in September last year, Manfred made his name as the executive vice-president of labour relations for the league over the previous 15 years.
He brokered three successive collective bargaining agreements with the MLB players’ union in 2002, 2006 and 2011 without a strike or a lockout – the former agreement marking the first labour deal in more than 30 years to be settled without a work stoppage.
“I believe he is an outstanding choice who will bring true passion and leadership to Major League Baseball,” Selig said. “We are where we want to be. We're having a wonderful transition, an orderly transition, a good transition. (That’s) really very important. That's the way it's supposed to be.”
Manfred was up against Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner in August’s vote after the other candidate recommended by the search committee, MLB vice-president for business Tim Brosnan, withdrew from the race.
Manfred added: “I agree with commissioner Selig. We've had a very productive and smooth transition. I would be remiss if I didn't thank him for how supportive he's been of everything I've been working on since (being elected in) Baltimore. But you do realise what a big job he's had for all these years. It's not like it's new to me. I've seen him. I've watched him. But when you start to realise it's going to be you, it does hit you.”
An initial issue on the agenda for Manfred is the topic of game time and growing pressure to speed up play to help the MLB attract younger fans. This year brought a record three hours, two minutes average game time, with post-season encounters moving closer to four hours.
Selig appointed a committee to address the issues, chaired by Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz, with experimental ideas such as pitch clocks and requiring hitters to remain in the batter’s box between pitches rolled out during the Arizona Fall League.
"I want the committee to continue to do its work," Selig said, according to the Associated Press news agency. "This was very productive in terms of ideas. The experience in the Arizona Fall League made quite an impact on a lot of people."
MLB rules for 2015 cannot be changed without agreement from the players’ association, while unilateral rule changes must come with a one-year advance notice. According to AP, the committee has received input from union chief Tony Clark and other players’ representatives.