MLB should consider Davey Johnson for next commissioner

Bud Selig will be done with his reign of power in Major League Baseball effective 2014 and the search for a new leader is under way.

So who are some of the names — past and present — circulating in conversation to become the next commissioner?

George W. Bush and Dick Ebersol. Oddly enough, Ebersol helped create Saturday Night Live before becoming a high ranking NBC TV executive and Bush, indirectly, created hours of comedy for the show.

"When you consider [Bush's] love for the game and his background as owner of the Texas Rangers — it's obviously off the table now — but he might have been a good commissioner. Someone like Dick Ebersol, who is probably past the point where he wants it, but he was a lifelong baseball fan, a very dynamic public personality and most important, somebody with tremendous knowledge and influence in media, which is where much of the money is going and where much of the future of sports lies," NBC sportscaster Bob Costas said during ESPN's Mike and Mike show Monday.

Costas offered these thoughts after turning down the hosts' suggestion of him seriously entertaining a bid for commissioner.

Since we're willing to think outside-the-box, here's another wild suggestion; Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson.

The commissioner's main responsibilities include negotiating marketing, labor and media contracts, hiring and maintaining the sports umpire crews and doing whatever is necessary to preserve the integrity and popularity of the sport.

Basically, it comes down to someone with a keen ability to maintain relationships. And when you've spent almost 50 years of your life committed to professional baseball like Johnson, I'd say you have a relationship or two.

That being said, the obvious knock against Johnson is age, of course. He is 70 years old, which is a huge part of why he's retiring from managing the Nationals at the end of the season.

Johnson talks about his desire for a quiet, normal life in Orlando, where he takes fishing trips with his wife and frequent walks with his 11-year-old German short-haired pointer, Savannah.

But this man loves baseball too much to completely walk away. He is planning to serve as a consultant for the Nationals after retiring, after all, and he's moving full speed ahead with bringing an urban youth baseball academy to Downtown Orlando.

Yep, sounds like a real quiet "retirement" alright.

Johnson is a proven leader, and I'm not referring to his career wins and losses or three World Series championships.

I'm talking about a man who was bold enough at 19 years old to challenge former Texas A&M baseball coach Tom Chandler for telling him he'd get a full four-year ride when the scholarship contract only promised him one guaranteed year at the school.

I'm talking about a man who was savvy enough to create a computer program that allowed him to generate more successful lineup options based on percentage baseball theories as a player for the Baltimore Orioles almost 30 years before Orlando-born Billy Beane and the movie, Moneyball, became Hollywood hits.

I'm talking about a man willing to fight with and for players like he did in shutting down National pitcher Stephen Strasburg early to preserve his and the team's long-term success.

And I'm talking about a guy who is old enough to remember grabbing drinks with Ted Williams to discuss hitting stances, but young in mind and heart enough to work out with a trainer to keep up with his young team or keep up with the latest emerging technologies in the sport.

A baseball commissioner should have a respect for the sport's history with an eye toward the future. Particularly, a future that includes engaging more of today's generation that's far more interested in football or basketball.

I believe Johnson can do that. Sports commissioners don't have to rule for 20-plus years. If eight years is enough time for person to run a country, perhaps that term limit is more than enough to run the MLB.

sjowens@orlandosentinel.com

CHICAGO