BALTIMORE -- You didn't really expect anyone else, did you?
Commissioner Bud Selig, with a nearly spotless 22-year record of persuading Major League Baseball owners to reach a consensus, pulled it off again, and in dramatic fashion.
Baseball averted an embarrassing impasse Thursday night by electing Rob Manfred, Selig's chief operating officer, to become the game's 10th commissioner.
But it took some politicking from Selig -- and then some. Manfred beat out Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner and MLB vice president Tim Brosnan, who dropped out before the first vote.
"There were differences of opinion," Selig said, "but in the end, we came together, and did what we always do."
Owners worked at it Thursday for 9 1/2 hours, including several votes, before finally confirming Manfred by a unanimous vote. He will officially replace Selig on Jan. 25, 2015.
"It wasn't a cakewalk," San Francisco Giants president Larry Baer said, "but that's OK. As the industry is getting bigger and the stakes are getting higher, the 30-0 (vote) is harder to achieve. It was a very good ending.
"The last thing you want is for people to walk out with bruised feelings. But the good news is that we walked out of the room as a very together entity. People weren't looking out of the room cross-eyed, and saying, 'I'm not going not talk to that guy anymore.'
"It was just the opposite. Everybody was sort of hugging, and shaking hands, and saying, 'We got there.' "
Manfred, who needed 23 of the 30 votes for election, spent most of the day between 20 and 22 votes. He was stuck on 22 votes for hours, Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos said, and at about 6 p.m. ET, earned the full support.
"Long day, but worthwhile," Angelos said. "I think the owners elected a very confident, strong, strong leader, and I think he's going to make some real difference in the future. He can build on the accomplishments of the previous administration."
Manfred's biggest competition was overcoming a contingent led by Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno, who supported Werner. Yet, when it was clear it was Manfred or an impasse that could lead to chaos, the owners opted for stability, with Milwaukee, Tampa Bay and Washington eventually switching to Manfred.
"While Rob may not have been my initial choice for commissioner," Reinsdorf said in a statement, "the conclusion of a very good process was to name Rob as the person best positioned to help baseball endure and grow even stronger for the next generation of fans. Everyone wants baseball to flourish. Today's decision was reached by 30 owners voting separately but speaking, in the end, with one voice."
The biggest obstacle facing Manfred now is to modernize the game, with attendance stagnant for the past decade and with declining national TV ratings. It starts with drastic plans to speed up the game, perhaps even using a pitch clock, Baer suggested.
"I think there's a huge amount of consensus about certain types of efforts that we will be undertaking to move the game forward," Manfred said. "In particular, the modernization of the game, like we saw with instant replay. The owners have a vision of continuing to move forward in that vein."
Of course, there is also the labor issue.
Baseball's Collective Bargaining Agreement expires Dec. 1, 2016, and you better believe the players union wants changes, particularly concerning draft restrictions and free-agent compensation rules. Manfred, who has been the league's chief negotiator since 1998, has successfully negotiated three labor deals. Baseball hasn't had a work stoppage work stoppage since the 232-day lockout ended in March, 1995.
"The biggest thing is always labor peace," Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said. "That's never going to change. These things come around every few years and there's a lot at stake."
Manfred will have to convince owners such as Reinsdorf and Moreno that he will be a tough negotiator during labor talks.
Even with the new challenges, Selig insists Manfred is the perfect choice to lead baseball into the next frontier.
"There is no doubt in my mind," Selig said, "that he has the temperament, the training, the experience to be a very, very successful commissioner. And I have justifiably very high expectations."
Manfred, 55, who began working for baseball in 1998, spending 15 years as an executive vice president in charge of labor relations before being promoted to COO, appeared emotional at times during his acceptance speech. Manfred, married with four children, grew up in Rome, N.Y., just an hour away from the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and now is in charge of preserving the sport's legacy.
"I am tremendously honored by the confidence owners showed in me today," Manfred said. "I have very big shoes to fill.
"There's no question I would not be standing here without Bud. And I hope I will perform as the 10th commissioner in a way that will add to his great legacy."
Selig, called by St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt as the greatest commissioner in the sport's history, has spent 22 years at the helm, the second-longest tenure in baseball. His strength was developing relationships, and building a consensus among owners. Now it's up to Manfred, who realizes he needs to win the support of those who initially voted against him.
"What I said to the owners after the vote," Manfred said, "that I didn't really want to even think about who was on what side on what issue at points in the process. My commitment to the owners was that I would work extremely hard, day in and day out, to convince all 30 of them that they made a great decision today.
"(Selig) established a great tradition of unity among the 30 clubs, and I'm going to work very hard to try to keep that unity as we move forward."