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Rob Manfred's biggest challenges

Major League Baseball chief operating officer Rob Manfred

Major League Baseball chief operating officer Rob Manfred speaks to reporters after team owners elected him as the next commissioner of baseball during an owners' quarterly meeting in Baltimore, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. Credit: AP / Steve Ruark

For all the bouquets thrown his way after Thursday's protracted vote for his successor, Bud Selig wasn't perfect. There was the canceled World Series, of course, in 1994. The proliferation of performance-enhancing drugs before his cleanup efforts. Just to name a few.

But after more than two decades in the commissioner's role, Selig captained Major League Baseball through the most successful era in the game's history in terms of financial growth, and that bottom line is what ultimately carries the most weight with the owners of the sport's 30 teams.

So with Rob Manfred, the commissioner-elect, now in line to take the reins from Selig in January, here are five of the biggest challenges awaiting him:

1. He's not Bud

Though it's true that Manfred, Selig's right-hand man for the past 15 years, was the best-suited of the three candidates to continue his legacy, that's easier said than done. Remember, Selig was an owner himself, of the Brewers, when he was first approved as acting commissioner in 1992, before the title became permanent six years later.

Being a member of the fraternity helped Selig, and that connection gave him the inside track to broker deals and gain a consensus among -- as we witnessed Thursday -- what can be a fractious group. Some even wanted Selig, who turned 80 last month, to stay on rather than choose a replacement.

2. The CBA clock is ticking

When Manfred assumes office during the last week of January, he'll have less than two years before the collective-bargaining agreement with the Players Association expires on Dec. 1, 2016. That's really not a lot of time, especially with the number of issues expected to be on the table and a new executive director in charge of the union, former player Tony Clark. One of Selig's greatest accomplishments was keeping the labor peace for the past 20 seasons, and that was largely through the efforts of Manfred, who negotiated three CBAs without a work stoppage. But with some hard-line owners possibly looking to further downsize payrolls, and with the union unhappy with current rules designed to penalize free agency, this next CBA might be the toughest yet.

3. The PED conundrum

Developing an effective drug-testing program, and the penalties to go with it, are a big part of Selig's legacy and something that Manfred helped pioneer. But policing the sport and chasing down drug cheats is an exhausting task with a constantly changing landscape. At the start, MLB dived into this shadowy world by prosecuting players on flunked urine tests. Now it's grown to involve larger distributors such as Biogenesis, which ensnared some of the game's biggest names. And what began as simpler steroids has evolved into more complex drugs such as fast-acting testosterone and HGH, thus requiring better tests. Selig made progress, but this job is never finished.

4. Need for speed

The pace of the game is a very real issue, and even though Selig has recognized this publicly in recent years, the sport has been slow to figure out ways to solve the problem. The addition of expanded replay -- a success in its debut season -- has further slowed things because of the manager's long, deliberate walks from the dugout in order to challenge. Selig's crew still can streamline the replay process for 2015, but it could be up to Manfred to institute changes that limit the time between pitches and prevent hitters from leaving the batter's box. Or maybe even more radical fixes.

5. The Rays and A's

During Selig's reign, MLB added four expansion teams and oversaw the construction of 21 new ballparks. But two markets that continue to befuddle Selig are Oakland and Tampa Bay, the latter of course being a problem of his own making by putting a club there in the first place. The nearby Giants were able to build a great waterfront park in 2000, but the A's play in an obsolete stadium that occasionally leaks sewage -- and they can't find their way to a better home in San Jose. The Rays, despite their on-field success, are unable to fill the antiquated Trop, and it seems their dome and market are long-term financial losers. Could Manfred move both teams? He'll have to try.

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