When Joe Torre stepped down as Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations a couple of weeks ago, I said this, based on nothing other than me speculatin’ on a hypothesis:
If baseball is smart they’d give the job to Kim Ng full time because someone needs to break up the boys club. But if they don’t do that, the permanent replacement has to be Tony La Russa, right?
Last night, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted this:
The MLB job vacated by Joe Torre has been informally offered to Tony La Russa, but he has shown no inclination in taking the position.
Hey, if he doesn’t want it he doesn’t want it, but it makes so much sense for him. My sense of that job is that it is sort of an, I dunno, royal position with a healthy does of p.r. being part of it. I don’t mean that to belittle it — important decisions like discipline and many key on-the-field issues flow through it — but it’s kind of a two-headed monster.
On the one hand you have the essential but kind of tedious work of the position. Reviewing precedent to see what happened in the last big beanball war to see what sort of punishment is necessary. Reading the reports from the umps following off-the-field incidents. Being on the phone with the National Weather Service for four hours to figure out if the playoff game is gonna get soaked or not. That job, I hear, is largely done by the second-in-command. Most recently that guy has been Sr. Vice President Peter Woodfork, who is said to do a hell of a job with all of that.
But that’s not the part we see. We see Joe Torre — or La Russa or whoever — meeting the press and saying so-and-so is going to happen as a result of the brawl or the playoff game is going to be postponed or that Joe West and his friends are gonna sit down shut up and accept the new robot umpires (allow me to dream).
I’m not saying they are figureheads — I’m sure Torre made the final calls and La Russa certainly would if he took the job — but they are definitely most useful for their gravitas and experience. They have to wade into controversial issues and give MLB’s official position, and it’s way more useful for seasoned, respected people who are used to dealing with a press gaggle doing that than someone of lesser public stature.
La Russa said when he retired as the Cardinals manager that he still wants to work a real job as opposed to being some whatever emeritus ambassador type. If that’s the case, I couldn’t imagine a job he’d be more suited for than this one. He’s probably the most intelligent ex-manager going. He’s prickly, sure, but there probably isn’t anyone who is more capable of wading into the kind of controversial things the Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations has to wade into. The job is made for him.
Plus, I don’t know what I’m gonna do if I can’t make Tony La Russa jokes next season. So do this for me, Tony. Will ya?