NEW YORK — The election of Rob Manfred as baseball’s next commissioner isn’t going to help the Cubs much in resolving their problems with the rooftop owners.
But if the Cubs are right about where they are in their rebuilding process, they could become one of the bigger beneficiaries of White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf’s failure this week to pull off a labor-hawk coup and install Red Sox chairman Tom Werner as Bud Selig’s replacement.
That’s because Manfred, baseball’s top labor executive during the last two decades of labor peace, was the likeliest candidate to keep a handful of festering issues from turning into a labor stoppage when the collective bargaining agreement expires in 2016 — about the time the Cubs expect to be competitive.
“We’ll see. Now that both sides have their structure and their people that are going to be at the hell, now we wait,” said Cubs pitcher Carlos Villanueva, the team’s players’ union rep and a member of the union’s executive committee.
Acknowledging the opposition candidacy of Werner by a Reinsdorf-led bloc of hard-line owners, Villanueva dismissed concerns members might have had over an upset of Manfred.
“There’s never fear from our side,” said Villanueva. “We’re prepared. That’s what’s been [said], what they wanted a harder type guy. But every time that the owners side has tried to be bullish or hard, that only makes the players unite even more.
“They know by now that’s not the right way to approach it, because I know we have the best union for a reason. We believe in our principles, and we have never really swayed from them, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”
It’s with that in mind that Villanueva scheduled an informal meeting with union leader Tony Clark on Saturday at the union’s New York office, where he took rookies Neil Ramirez and Kyle Hendricks.
“I want to give the guys a little bit of the history of why we have the rights that we have, why they’re making half-a-million dollars in the first year — all this,” Villanueva said. “When I started playing baseball, I didn’t even know a union existed. Once you get more into it you see what other players go through, and strikes, work stoppages and all this, and sacrifice their livelihood for the future generations. That’s when you start appreciating [that history].”
More immediately, Manfred’s election should give the sides their best chance avoiding a repeat of some of that history.
General manager Jed Hoyer said he was “excited” about Manfred’s election.
“He’s an incredibly bright guy who knows the business inside and out, and he’s worked on a number of CBAs and been right with commissioner Selig when all the decisions have been made on the drug testing and stuff like that,” Hoyer said. “When it comes to his intelligence and experience, he’s certainly the right guy.”
NOTES: The Cubs announced after Saturday’s game that outfield prospect Matt Szczur will be called up from AAA Iowa to take the roster spot of right-hander Dan Straily, who returns to Iowa after Saturday’s spot start.
† Top prospect Kris Bryant left Saturday’s game at Iowa in the top of the third inning, limping and accompanied by a trainer. The severity of his injury was not immediately known.