Major League Baseball commissioner Tom Werner?
Seriously. It could happen. The current Chairman of the Red Sox is a finalist to replace Bug Selig. Voting takes place next week.
The third wheel of Red Sox ownership possibly becoming the first name on the MLB masthead ... North America is truly the land of opportunity.
"If Tom Werner can be the commissioner of baseball, [hysterical laughter] I could be the president. Of Germany." -- @TonyMassarotti— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) August 5, 2014
Call it "Revenge of the Shemp."
What if Werner does get the job? It would be hard to imagine his exit will have any impact on the operations of the Red Sox. For Werner, it could make for a nice golden parachute if big changes are headed for Yawkey Way. Baseball, however, may never be quite the same.
“I have ideas that I believe the owners should hear,” Werner told The Boston Globe's Peter Abraham Tuesday. “That’s why I’m involved in the process.”
He didn't outline any of those ideas to the Globe. So we'll give it a shot. Here are 10 things you could see - both real and imagined - if Werner replaces Selig.
11. Anything the Red Sox want, the Red Sox get.
"I said: 'Table for three.'"
10. "Roseanne" Redux
Werner served as a producer and executive producer for several hit TV shows, including "The Cosby Show," "That 70s Show," "Mork and Mindy," and of course, "Roseanne." That show's protagonist, Roseanne Barr, delivered perhaps the single-worst rendition of the "National Anthem" in baseball history in San Diego. It came just six weeks after a group that included Werner bought the Padres in 1990.
She ended her version of the "Star Mangled Banner" by grabbing her crotch and spitting on the ground. She claims to this day it was a joke. "I regret it came out like it did, you know. I was trying to be funny. Sometimes you can't tell if it's funny or not, I guess. I learned that. I was too hip for the room, I think," she wrote in her book. Baseball great Tony Gwynn and former Yale baseball player George H.W. Bush termed it "a disgrace" and "disgraceful," respectively.
Twenty-four years later, with her former producer in charge of MLB, she'll be poised to make the biggest baseball comeback this side of the 2013 Red Sox.
9. The "Wally Wave" Is In / The "7th-Inning Stretch" Is Out
Baseball Rule 1918-2004: "Every baseball team shall create an idiotic mascot. Every team shall commission a special dance routine honoring such mascot. Such routine shall be performed between the top and bottom of the seventh inning, during what was once known as the '7th-Inning Stretch.' Said dance will be performed while the crowd sings 'Take Me Out to The Ballgame.'"
8. Coming to a Ballpark Near You: "Sox/Yankees/Orioles (etc.) Appeal"
As NESN overlord, Werner green-lighted such memorable shows as "Pocket Money" and "NESN's Comedy All-Stars." Nothing, however, matched the brilliance of "Sox Appeal." On the reality-dating show, which aired during the 2007 and '08 seasons,
contestants viewers endured three, two-inning blind dates during a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. The eventual "winner" would be chosen by the end of the game. The New York Times (for real) called it: "One part 'Fever Pitch,' the other part 'The Bachelor.'" The Times also reported that the producers of the show planned to use the idea for other teams and ballparks.
With Werner in charge, they'll certainly have a chance to do just that.
7. More and Better Sex Symbols
In Terry Francona's book, the former Red Sox manager wrote about how Werner complained about declining ratings on NESN back in 2010. "We need to start winning in more exciting fashion," Werner said at the time. A report prepared for the team said: "(W)omen are definitely more drawn to the 'soap opera' and 'reality-TV' aspects of the game ... They are interested in good-looking stars and sex symbols." The report cited Dustin Pedroia and could have easily added in the late but still sexy in Pinstripes Jacoby Ellsbury.
Expect both to be playing well into their 40s with Werner in charge.
John Lackey, meanwhile, is toast.
In reality, the best thing baseball could do to help teams win in "more exciting fashion" would be to speed up the game. The current ace of these Bostucket Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, takes anywhere between 18 seconds and three weeks between each pitch. If Werner or the next commissioner is able to effectively speed up the game, fandom across all 22 North American time zones will be grateful.
6. Peter Gammons - Assistant Director of Everything
The Hall of Fame columnist now runs his own website and still remains tied to all that is baseball, and to much that is happening on Yawkey Way. With one of his own as Baseball Commissioner, Gammons should be able to pick any role at the MLB level he wants. If not, he'll no doubt be more connected than Commissioner Werner himself.
5. A Neil Diamond Song for Every Ballpark
"Take Me Out To The Ballgame" was never enough. Neither is chanting "Let's Go Red Sox." Baseball needs more and better sing-alongs.There will be singing and not just in the bottom of the eighth inning. Red Sox fans are forced into "Sweet Caroline" no matter the situation. Down 8-1 to the Orioles when the team is 12 games out in September? Doesn't matter. Neil Diamond makes (at least)
162 81 appearances a year at Fenway Park. Soon each team will get its own Neil Diamond song.
For instance, in Toronto, they'll sing "Song Sung Blue." Cincinnati? "Red, Red Wine." Colorado? "Love on the Rocks." Etc.
(For the record, Diamond's surprise appearance at Fenway Park on "F-Bomb" day last April 20 was epic, despite the bad echo. And the above clip of "Sweet Caroline" from Yankee Stadium the day after last year's Marathon Bombing was the second-greatest moment in the history of the Bronx and an unbelievable act of class by the Yankees and their fans.)
4. Cos and Effect
The third Tuesday each April will be designated as "Sweater Day" across major league baseball.
Werner currently serves on the board of directors of the MLB Network, MLB Enterprises, and MLB Properties. The Red Sox have long been in the forefront of social media engagement. Under Werner, uniforms could soon include Twitter handles in addition to player names. Team logos will be re-designed to include hashtags and other social media elements. Eventually, every fan at every game will find their searchable photo posted on each team's Facebook page. (Some of this is a lot closer to happening in real life across pro sports than you might imagine.)
In the real world, expect some serious wi-fi upgrades throughout the majors. Having 30,000 fans or so each night at 12 or 13 stadiums presents a tremendous opportunity for viral on-site marketing. But you can't tweet that photo if you're stuck in 3G territory.
2. Far More Show Than "Show"
From a TV producer's perspective, baseball games are undoubtedly far too long, contain too much dead-air time and often become snoozers.
The next commissioner faces a serious challenge in this area. An ESPN fan poll that showed major-league soccer was tied with baseball among fans ages 13-17 in terms of fan interest should have set off alarms throughout the MLB offices at 245 Park Ave. in New York. Werner, who also owned the San Diego Padres from 1994-96, knows how to please a mass TV audience. Baseball will have to evolve into a shorter, more action-filled TV and digital experience to maintain and grow its fan base. Meanwhile, every second of every game remains a marketing opportunity for the right product. That's just a cold, hard Coors Light fact.
In that sense, baseball probably couldn't do much better than Werner.
1. The Return of Pete Rose
A longshot for sure, but Rose is perhaps the most-passionate spokesman baseball has seen in years. If Werner wanted to make a statement that baseball is focused on the future, giving Rose a pardon for his baseball crimes after spending 25 years in baseball exile would be a great first step. It's just the type of substantial publicity stunt that could inject some excitement into things during the offseason after Jon Lester signs with the Yankees.
Yes, Rose bet on baseball. Yes, he had a lifetime ban. But it's been 25 years. Murderers sometimes don't serve 25 years after they committed murder. The sport is still reeling from nearly two decades of rampant PED usage and the Biogenesis scandal was back in the headlines on Tuesday.
Whoever becomes baseball commissioner has many challenges to overcome in addition to what was outlined above, if only the owners will allow it.
The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Hit up Bill on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
Obnoxious Boston Fan Email Address. Thanks always for reading.
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