Henry: Werner 'great' commish choice

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry, in an interview published four days before the owners are scheduled to vote on a successor to Bud Selig, said "there is no doubt" Sox chairman Tom Werner "would make a great commissioner."

Werner has emerged as a surprise finalist on the ballot to replace Selig, joining Rob Manfred, often regarded as Selig's hand-picked successor, and Tim Brosnan, MLB's executive vice president of business. Recent reports that White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is leading a faction opposed to Manfred prompted Selig to issue a statement Friday disputing reports of friction.

"Reports of personal animosity between Jerry Reinsdorf and me -- or any other alleged disputes between owners regarding the process or the candidates -- are unfounded and unproductive," Selig said. "I respect the ownership of our 30 franchises and have complete faith that the process will produce an individual that all in baseball will be eager to support."

But doubt has been cast on the inevitability that Manfred, who heads MLB's labor relations arm, will succeed Selig, who has not publicly endorsed any of the candidates. And while Werner, the highly successful television producer who rebounded from a disastrous tenure as San Diego Padres owner in the early 1990s to forge a strong partnership in Boston with Henry and CEO Larry Lucchino, is viewed as a long-shot candidate, he might challenge Manfred's ability to corral the necessary 23 votes for election.

Henry implied in an email exchange with the Boston Herald that he might throw his support behind Werner, who reportedly had a strong interview with the seven-man search committee.

"It's a very important time," Henry wrote. "There are excellent candidates. I believe, given today's world, that we need a businessman who understands more than the inherent problems of owners and of labor. That person must excel in understanding media, entertainment, competition and business as well as the sport. The game won't automatically grow and it could well be disrupted by standing still."

Werner and Henry have become close personal friends since they joined forces to buy the Red Sox, a purchase that took place on Dec. 20, 2001, and closed on Feb. 27, 2002. The possibility of losing Werner as a business partner and his steady company as a friend, Henry told the Herald, has left him with mixed feelings about his candidacy.

"There is no doubt he would make a great commissioner," Henry wrote of Werner. "Tom is one of the most popular owners because he's very passionate about baseball, has a sense of duty, as evidenced by his work with veterans and the Red Sox Foundation, and because he is trusted by everyone who knows him. You won't find a more popular person in the television industry.

"On the other hand, we would hate to lose him here. Not only would he have to sell his interest in the Red Sox, but he would be moving back to New York. It would be a terrible loss, personally and professionally. So I have very mixed feelings on the subject."