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 Tigers' Dombrowski could be among commissioner candidates

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PostSubject: Tigers' Dombrowski could be among commissioner candidates   Fri Oct 21, 2011 11:43 pm

Last Updated: October 21. 2011 5:57PM
Lynn Henning
Tigers' Dombrowski could be among commissioner candidates

Bud Selig's reign as baseball commissioner is scheduled to end a year from now, and there is a growing expectation that Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers president, CEO, and general manager, could become a contender for baseball's most prized job.

Dombrowski, 55, saw his team miss a shot at this year's World Series when the Tigers last weekend lost to the Rangers in the American League Championship Series.

But a season during which the Tigers won 95 games and beat the Yankees in an American League Division Series did nothing to lessen Dombrowski's status within big-league baseball's corridors.

There has been no clear favorite to replace Selig, 77, who has said he will retire at the end of the 2012 World Series.

"It's not one of those things I spend much time thinking about," Dombrowski said Friday, when asked if he might be interested in the commissioner's job. "I'm in a situation where I'm very happy where I am and with what I do, and I'm pleased with all of that.

"I have never really thought about it," Dombrowski said of his potential candidacy. "When I've been in any job I've had, I haven't thought about other jobs. That's just how I work."

Dombrowski, though, has a 33-year background in baseball that includes GM jobs in both leagues. He also possesses a CEO aura — "a regal style," says Jim Bowden, formerly a general manager with the Reds and Nationals — that with his broad executive experience, could assist in making him a serious contender.

Dombrowski won a world championship in 1997 when he was general manager of the Florida Marlins. He took control of a moribund Tigers team in 2001 and five years later, helped put the Tigers into their first World Series since 1984.

The Tigers have been contenders, for the most part, since that 2006 season and at the same time have become one of baseball's steadiest box-office successes, averaging almost 2.7 million fans per season since 2006, numbers that are particularly impressive, given Michigan's and Metro Detroit's financial challenges.

"I think he would be an excellent candidate to be commissioner," said Tim Kurkjian, the longtime ESPN baseball analyst. "He is really smart, he has been around for a long time, he has done virtually every job in baseball, meaning he knows how the game works from the inside, and he also knows how the game works on the field, not only because of having assembled teams, but because he's done the contracts and has worked with owners as well as with players.

"I'm not sure there's a more qualified guy to run the game than him."

Dombrowski has risen steadily since he began his big-league career in the Chicago White Sox front office in 1978. He joined the Montreal Expos in 1987 and a year later, at age 31, became baseball's youngest GM when he was promoted to oversee the Expos.

He moved to Florida when the Marlins were handed an expansion franchise, won the World Series there and later departed after owner Wayne Huizenga decided to sell off the team's costlier stars and turn the Marlins into a team of undisputed austerity. Huizenga sold the club to John Henry ahead of Dombrowski's departure.

Tigers owner Mike Ilitch had been impressed with Dombrowski's work in Montreal, where the Expos (now the Washington Nationals) had managed to build quality teams with a low payroll. Ilitch, whose Tigers team had not won in eight years and would not win for another five, hired Dombrowski as president and CEO in November of 2001.

Five months later, Dombrowski fired then-general manager Randy Smith and assumed all executive authority for crafting a new baseball product in Detroit.

A turnaround ensued, facilitated by Ilitch's cash commitment and Dombrowski's approach to acquiring talent by way of trades, free agency, and, most notably, a draft that for decades had been a desert for the Tigers.

Dombrowski's reputation within baseball's front-office circle is that he is aggressive but, at the 11th hour, reasonable on compromises.

"The thing I think is crucial," Kurkjian said, "is that when you talk with other GMs about the (July) trade deadline, to a man, they say Dave Dombrowski is a deal-maker. And I think that goes way beyond making a trade.

"He knows how to get people together to reach an agreement. And in the commissioner's office, logically, you have to bring sides together and get something accomplished in one form or another. His ability as a deal-maker is a skill you would want in a commissioner."

There has been surprisingly little speculation about who might succeed Selig. One strong possibility is Sandy Alderson, the New York Mets general manager who previously was big-league baseball's executive vice president for baseball operations.

Alderson was also CEO of the San Diego Padres and is a former GM and general counsel with the Oakland Athletics (he is a Harvard law graduate). Alderson, who next month turns 64, has broad respect across baseball's spectrum.

Andy MacPhail could also be part of a short list. MacPhail descends from a line of baseball executives and this month left the Orioles after working as their president of baseball operations.

A potential list could also include Joe Torre, the longtime former Yankees manager, who earlier this year became Alderson's replacement as Selig's executive vice president for baseball operations.

Torre, though, is a newcomer to baseball's business side and probably lacks the CEO experience that the job ideally demands — and has been a mainstay of Dombrowski's time in Detroit and elsewhere.

Dombrowski in any respect isn't announcing his candidacy.

"I don't think anyone would be thinking of replacing the commissioner, at this point, until he finally steps down," Dombrowski said. "He's done such a great job, and he's been in that job so long.

"Plus, I don't know where he really stands on that," said Dombrowski, who is aware that Selig had originally decided to retire in 2009 before agreeing to an extension. "I'm not in those circles to know anything confidential, per se."

How a Dombrowski candidacy would be met by baseball's owners, who will anoint Selig's successor, is difficult to project.

Dombrowski is generally considered to be skilled at relationships with all segments of baseball society. Not all owners, however, have perhaps forgiven him and the Tigers for going over "slot recommendations" when the Tigers began frequently signing early draft picks for heavy sums of money.

That resentment might have waned in recent years as more and more clubs have decided that teams such as the Tigers and Red Sox had it right. Paying heavily for early draft picks is now common practice among most clubs.

If he were to leave, the Tigers would likely promote from within their current hierarchy.

Al Avila, who has been Dombrowski's assistant GM since 2002, would be a heavy bet to work as the team's new GM. David Chadd (special assistant to the GM), John Westhoff (vice president and chief legal counsel), Scott Reid (scouting), Mike Smith (director of operations), etc., would also be expected to remain in Detroit.

Any such decisions, of course, will be academic if Dombrowski isn't the big-league owners' idea of the right man to replace Selig.

Dombrowski insisted Friday he wasn't looking for a job, nor was he campaigning for one.

"I'm happy here," he said, "and that's the most important thing. I enjoy my responsibilities."

From The Detroit News:’-Dombrowski-could-be-among-commissioner-candidates#ixzz1bTMjk13x

“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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