BALTIMORE - After three months of searching, two more days of discussing and another five hours of boardroom intrigue, Major League Baseball finally named Rob Manfred its 10th commissioner Thursday night.
Manfred, 55, currently serving as chief operating officer, was the favorite to succeed Bud Selig, 80. But the last phase of the transition did not go smoothly and required a few ballots for Manfred to reach the 23 votes necessary to win the election. At least twice, Manfred -- who will take over on Jan. 25, 2015 -- fell a single vote short.
By the end, however, when the 30 owners emerged shortly after 6 p.m., Manfred had received unanimous support. The faction of anti-Manfred owners ultimately caved, but they had made their point.
"There was robust debate," said Yankees president Randy Levine, who accompanied the team's general managing partner, Hal Steinbrenner. "It shows what a great process this is. Everybody had an opportunity to voice their concerns. We supported Rob and we think he's going to do a great job."
Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, the opposition candidate, finished runner-up. Tim Brosnan, MLB's executive vice president of business, dropped out Thursday morning before the owners even gathered to vote.
"I think there's a huge amount of consensus about the efforts we will be undertaking to take the game forward," Manfred said. "In particular, the modernization of the game. What you saw with instant replay, the innovations like that commissioner Selig has begun, that vision, we will continually move forward in that vein."
Manfred, as Selig's right-hand man for the past two decades, was the logical choice to continue the success of that administration. Even those who fought Manfred's candidacy could not overlook that obvious strength.
"He knows every facet of baseball," Orioles owner Peter Angelos said. "He has a way of getting things accomplished and so there are great expectations.
"Is he perfect? No. No one's perfect. But I think he'll do a sterling job and I think he'll follow successfully in the path of the retiring commissioner."
Manfred's qualifications were unmatched by the other two candidates, and his strong ties to Selig -- a skillful deal-maker and peacekeeper -- provided a big advantage in trying to convince the 30 owners.
A Harvard-educated lawyer, Manfred has been MLB's lead negotiator in the past three collective-bargaining agreements.
He also was at the forefront of Selig's strong anti-PED policies, including last season's discipline of the players involved with Biogenesis and the protracted battle over Alex Rodriguez's appeal of his original 211-game suspension.
Manfred has dealt with just about every aspect of MLB's operations, on and off the field, so that gave him a more well-rounded resume the others lacked.
"I've given him many tasks," Selig said. "And a lot of them not very pleasant, quite frankly. There's no doubt in my mind he has the training, the temperament and the experience to be a very successful commissioner."
As many of the owners stated Thursday, along with Manfred himself, following Selig feels like an impossible task. Selig essentially has run Major League Baseball since he was named the acting commissioner in 1992.
But Selig's diplomatic abilities were put to the test in promoting Manfred, and when he stood beside him during Thursday's announcement, the two looked drained. Selig stepping down is a scary proposition. But if MLB's owners want to maintain the prosperity they enjoyed under him, Manfred held the most promise of that.
"This is a tough job," Werner said. "I was prepared to do it. But I'm also happy that we found a good guy to do it and I'm very supportive of Rob. We"re going to move forward together as an industry."