The Pros And Cons Of Tony La Russa, Team President
Unofficially, Chuck Armstrong is finished with the Mariners. Officially, Chuck Armstrong is almost finished with the Mariners, and the team intends to have named a replacement by the time he’s packed his many boxes. Under ordinary circumstances this would be kind of interesting news, but now we have to pretend like it’s bigger news than that since nothing else is happening until Masahiro Tanaka makes a damned decision. And, you know, a lot of fans have wanted Armstrong gone for a while. Rightly or wrongly, he’s developed an impossibly negative reputation, and so people are counting down the days. And while the Mariners have been in the process of interviewing some internal successor candidates, there’s also Tony La Russa. La Russa is interested in the position, and if the Mariners end up looking outside their own estate, La Russa might end up the favorite. That would be a mighty big name. Below, I’ve listed the pros and cons of the Mariners naming Tony La Russa the next team president.
- knows baseball a lot
- doesn’t know Mariners
I think that about summarizes things. Tony La Russa is one of the most well-known and highly-respected managers in at least the recent history of Major League Baseball. Few people possess a more authoritative voice on the game. Since retiring from the Cardinals, La Russa has served as a special assistant to the commissioner. His track record as a team president, or as anything close to that, is identical to yours, and mine.
It’s easy to want the Mariners to hire him. When you dig into it, though, there aren’t actually any legitimate reasons, from the outside. The main reason is this: La Russa’s a baseball icon, a passionate and proven winner, and the Mariners don’t need more of the same. But La Russa’s proven shit-all in this kind of role, and not everybody who’s worked for the Mariners is alike. Just because a guy is an internal candidate doesn’t mean he sucks, and just as importantly, how in the hell are we supposed to evaluate a team president? We can’t even evaluate a simple on-field manager. Now we’re supposed to get into non-GM executives?
Basically everything La Russa’s proven, he’s proven fulfilling a responsibility he wouldn’t have as a president. Presidents don’t run bullpens. Presidents don’t pinch-hit. Presidents don’t lead clubhouses. Every so often, in the event of an interim GM, presidents might play some role in determining roster management, but why should we trust La Russa in that role more than someone else? In short: why, actually, support the Mariners hiring Tony La Russa? I’m not saying one should be opposed to it. I just can’t imagine having a favorite. I can’t imagine the circumstances that would lead me to believe I know anything about being the president of a baseball organization.
An obvious response would be that hiring La Russa would be great for PR. People have complained every year that the Mariners aren’t sufficiently passionate about winning, and La Russa loves winning like nothing else. But we’ve never had a true measure of passion, and we’ve never been able to link passion to success, and this isn’t an area where PR should matter for a hill of beans. A team president is a team executive, a guy who wears a suit, and he’s someone you want to stick around for a while. There’s no such thing as a sustained PR lift because of a suit. It would raise eyebrows for a week, maybe two, and then it would be about the players again. Because the only true cause of a sustained PR lift is on-field success. All people want is a winner. They care about other things, sometimes, but only in that they might help or hurt the winning effort. Mariners fans want to win, and we can’t say anything about Tony La Russa’s would-be effects on the record. Nor can we say anything about the in-house candidates. The in-house candidates are less exciting, but let’s step back and consider that we’re talking about excitement as it pertains to a franchise president. You know who’d be an exciting presidential hire? Shawn Kemp. Sure would suck, probably. But imagine the headlines.
Tony La Russa’s proven himself capable of things that aren’t running a lot of the business end of a baseball team. I guess there’s not really anything I can say that Mitch Hedberg didn’t. Root for whoever you want, but don’t pretend like you actually know anything. It’s all just a money-making mystery up there.
But when you’re in Hollywood and you’re a comedian everybody wants you to do other things besides comedy. They say “All right, you’re a standup comedian, can you act? Can you write? Write us a script.” They want me to do things that’s related to comedy but not comedy. That’s not fair. It’s as though I was a cook, and I worked my ass off to become a really good cook, and they said “All right, you’re a cook. Can you farm?”