President & Chief Executive Officer Derrick Hall of the Arizona Diamondbacks applauds during a Major League Baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Bud Selig, believe it or not, eventually isn't going to be commissioner any more. And there might be an outstanding successor in baseball's management ranks.
Steve Henson of Yahoo wrote this long profile of Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall, focusing primarily on Hall's changing the culture of the D'backs (yes, that's now an official team name, according to the article) and on his successful battle with prostate cancer (Hall was recently pronounced cancer-free by his doctors).
But buried toward the end of Henson's feature is this intriguing paragraph:
His approach fosters the culture the United Nations recognized in giving the inaugural Positive Peace Award for a sports team to the Diamondbacks. It’s why MLB has Hall on its short list of candidates to replace Selig when he retires, perhaps as soon as 2014. It’s why several of the groups seeking to purchase the Dodgers have contacted Hall to become the CEO should their bid win.
Bud Selig's contract, to the dismay of many, was recently extended for two more years. He turns 78 in July and about a week after that, he will become the oldest man ever to serve as commissioner (Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis died five days after his 78th birthday, still in office as commissioner, in 1944).
He can't live forever, right? RIGHT?
Hall has helped transformed the D'backs, in just five years, from a laughingstock to a playoff team with solid management both in the front office (Kevin Towers) and the field (Kirk Gibson). They'll be favored by many to repeat as NL West champions in 2012.
About two years ago, the Cubs floated a plan to finance a new spring training complex with a surcharge on Cactus League tickets. The plan was severely criticized by almost everyone and eventually dropped for a different complex, which will soon break ground in Mesa, Arizona. One of those in the forefront of the criticism was Hall; he was quite accessible to me in my role as head of SB Nation's Cubs blog Bleed Cubbie Blue and sent me quite a long email responding to my questions about his position. He certainly didn't have to do that, but I appreciated his quick response and accessibility.
Hall, along with the late Rockies president Keli McGregor, spearheaded the construction of Salt River Fields, now considered the gold standard of spring training complexes in Arizona, and got it finished on time to open in 2011, despite a tight 15-month construction schedule.
This is exactly what baseball fans need in the commissioner's office -- someone who understands the business side of the game (Hall worked for the Dodgers for about a dozen years, leaving there in 2004 as senior VP of communications, and also worked briefly in broadcasting), yet is accessible to fans and understands what the modern fan wants and needs. His experience in the broadcast realm gives him an understanding of current realities in that business, unlike Selig's 1970s model.
Hall is 43 and clearly a rising star in baseball's executive ranks. The Yahoo article suggests some of the Dodgers ownership bidders (I'd guess particularly the O'Malley group, since Hall began with the Dodgers when Peter O'Malley still owned the team) might be interested in bringing him back as team president; Eric Stephen of True Blue LA points out that the Dodgers don't currently have a team president.
But eventually, even if somehow new Dodgers ownership lures Hall away from Arizona, someday MLB is going to need a replacement for Selig. Derrick Hall would be an excellent choice; he's a man who has led a successful team, yet wouldn't be like the tone-deaf Selig when it comes to fan support.
It could happen. More importantly, I think it should happen.