The Next Commissioner of Baseball

Photo Courtesy: Scott Ableman
Could this man replace Bud Selig as the MLB’s new head honcho?  Photo Courtesy: Scott Ableman

By Steve Painter

Stan Kasten is arguably the best executive of any team in baseball. His record speaks for itself and is unmatched by anyone else. He’s having a great time as one of the principal owners of the Dodgers, where his official title is President, and his proclivities of wading into and greeting the crowds go right along with another Dodger great, Tommy Lasorda.

Kasten started his professional sports career serving as the youngest general manager in the NBA, for the Atlanta Hawks at age 27. He met a southern gentleman in St. Louis by happenstance, and his career took off thanks to Ted Turner. During his NBA years, he became the only executive to win back-to-back NBA Executive of the Year awards, and this feat still stands today, achieving this in 1986 & 1987. Kasten’s Hawks achieved four straight 50 win seasons and set franchise records in attendance during the 1986 to 1989 seasons. In the nineties, the Hawks enjoyed 7 consecutive playoff appearances, including three more 50 win seasons.

Normally, anyone who has this type of resume’ would be satisfied with this one role, but not Kasten. In 1986 he also became President of the Atlanta Braves. And everyone knows about the Braves achievements from 1987 – 2003: They won more games than any other team in major league baseball, winning the World Series in 1995. The players he had were led by Chipper Jones, Gregg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Steve Avery. Maddux and Glavine are in the Hall of Fame, and Smoltz and Jones will follow. And another Hall of Famer led them, Bobby Cox.

But that’s not all Kasten has done. In 1999, he also became President of the NHL expansion team, the Atlanta Thrashers, and he served as chairman of the newly built Phillips Arena.

Still, he was restless. In 2003, he stepped down from his roles in Atlanta and took a three year break before becoming President of the Washington Nationals, whom he built into a contender in just four and a half years. During his tenure there, he drafted Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper and added other pieces to establish a great franchise and re-energize the fan base. It can’t be said enough what the additions of Strasburg and Harper means for the franchise. Chipper Jones has said that Strasburg is the game’s best pitcher and we all know about the tenacity of Harper.

Kasten has always said he planned on spending five years in Washington, so in 2010 he stepped down, but not for long. In January 2012, he joined Magic Johnson, Peter Guber and Guggenheim Partners in bidding for the Dodgers, and, of course, theirs was the winning bid and he became President of his third MLB team. And, yes, it goes without saying that the Dodgers are again contenders for the title on an annual basis now. Yasiel Puig, anybody? Locking up Kershaw? All have the fingerprints of a very successful executive.

But, in all of his stops, Kasten is quick to point out that he simply hired great people around him. And that he did, Schuerholz in Atlanta, Rizzo in Washington, and he inherited Colletti in LA. In addition to these GM’s, he oversaw the hiring of tremendous personnel throughout the organizations he led. He is more than willing to place the success of each team on the shoulders of those around him. He is not only a great leader, but possesses a terrific knack of hiring good people around him.

Major League Baseball could do much worse than select this man as the next commissioner. He has the talent, and yes, the legal background, having a law degree from Columbia, to serve over the greatest game ever played. Selig has seen attendance increase tremendously during his time, but Kasten, if appointed, will have even greater success, because Kasten knows it’s the fans who pay the bills and he loves just wandering through the stadium, making sure the napkin dispensers are filled and talking with those fans, creating energy for the team on the field.