the man that got away

lost in all of yesterday's histrionics over the gm hire is this fact: the cardinals aggressively pursued the guy everybody wanted. whether or not they formally offered antonetti the job (i know, the club denies it. . . . ), it was his for the taking --- and he was prepared to accept until cleveland came in and, in essence, matched the offer. per the report cited by holden in yesterday's thread:

It appeared Antonetti was leaning toward moving to St. Louis until Indians owner Paul Dolan stepped up, defined the succession process under which Mark Shapiro will eventually be the club president and Antonetti the GM and made other promises.

Antonetti said he was "very fortunate to have a choice of two of the best jobs there are with two of the best owners to work with," Antonetti said. "The Cardinals may be one of the top five GM jobs in the business, but we are very happy where we are and Paul Dolan made it impossible to leave.

it happens all the time, in every industry --- a hotshot up-n-comer gets wooed by an outside employer, lands an offer, takes it back to his current boss, and extracts a promotion (or the promise of one) and a bigger salary. that's all that happened here. it's not as if antonetti spurned the cardinals in order to wait for a more attractive job with some other team. he chose to stay with the organization he knows and is familiar with, in the city where he and his family already have roots. can't hardly blame him for that. here's another report, from the indians' official site:
"I am very fortunate to be in a great personal and professional situation in Cleveland," Antonetti said. "After conversations with Mark and [team president] Paul Dolan, I am very comfortable with my current position and future with the Indians."
there are many other, more exotic interpretations abroad, assigning blame to this party or that. "la russa won," goes one of these tropes --- but if that were truly the case, then why would the cards have come so close to hiring a 32-year-old sabermetric geek in the first place? i agree it was a mistake to rehire la russa before the new gm was in place, but he's not the reason antonetti turned down the job. likewise, the argument that antonetti feared a power struggle with luhnow is largely spin generated by the walt-was-mistreated wing of the media. two years ago, when antonetti perceived a fractured power structure in boston (after theo epstein's temporary ouster), he simply refused to interview the job; had he perceived the same problem here, he wouldn't have come so close to accepting the post. "I was given a strong indication the next general manager would have autonomy over all baseball matters," he says in this morning's p-d. also: "There has seemingly been an undercurrent about reservations I had or someone had. I had no reservations about St. Louis."

to the extent that any personnel scared him off, i don't think they were in the management suite --- i think they were in the clubhouse. you all saw the roster matrix yesterday --- an old, overpriced big-league roster and a development program just awakening from years of neglect. yet with those dicey resources, he'd be expected to win immediately and, at the same time, rebuild for the future. . . . . it might have seemed like an exciting challenge, and no doubt it was flattering to be told "we think you're the whiz-kid who can do it." but once cleveland promised more money, security, and advancement prospects, his current job simply became more attractive than the chance to modernize the cards' fusty organization. he had two opportunities; he chose the better one.

until antonetti leaves the indians to take a gmship in some other city, all the talk about luhnow running him off or la russa calling the shots or dewitt lowballing the guy or whatever is just that --- talk. i understand the frustration; he would have been a fantastic hire. but i don't see what the cardinals could have done differently to lure him away. the indians know how talented this guy is, and they were determined to keep him. from this morning's cleveland plain-dealer:

Antonetti, who just finished his sixth season as Indians assistant general manager, had his contract restructured by President Paul Dolan. He'd signed a four-year extension on May 15, but it's believed Antonetti's deal was sweetened with a raise and more years.

"We're ecstatic to keep Chris here," Indians GM Mark Shapiro said. "He's an impact member of the front office."

There was speculation Antonetti withdrew from the Cardinals job because the general manager's authority might be restricted. Manager Tony La Russa and his coaching staff were rehired before a general manager was hired. Walt Jocketty, who resigned at the end of the season after 13 years in St. Louis, reportedly struggled for power with Jeff Luhnow, vice president of amateur scouting and player development.

Antonetti denied that.

"It's a fantastic opportunity and John will do a great job," Antonetti, 33, said. "It's one of the best general manager's jobs in baseball. Bill DeWitt [chairman of the board] is prepared to give the general manager all the autonomy he needs."

Antonetti, however, did not want to leave the Indians.

"I have an opportunity to work with a great group of people in a phenomenal work environment," he said. "I'm appreciative and fulfilled by the responsibilities I have in my current position."

so we're left with mozeliak. is that so awful? i share the concern that he'll be too deferential to la russa; that part of the "la russa won" argument, i get. the moves mozeliak made during this past month suggest a proneness to continue the team's recent pattern of seeking expensive short-term (non-)fixes rather than developing long-term solutions, but he only made 3 moves; it's unfair to define him by such a small number of decisions. if what he showed us in october represents his full repertoire, we're in trouble --- but it's way too soon to make that conclusion. before i write him off as "jocketty lite," i want to see what he can do. his handling of eckstein, taguchi, and miles will provide an early tell. mozeliak will be presented with a good case that those players aren't worth big dollars (or in eckstein's case, multiple years). jocketty wouldn't even have listened to those arguments, much less given them equal weight to the preferences of the manager. will mozeliak? his decisions re those players will reveal much about the degree to which the vision has really shifted and sabermetric thinking has penetrated the front office. i'll also be watching to see how vigorously he pursues aaron rowand, a player the cards have been rumored to want; if he throws 10s of millions at that guy, let the weeping commence.
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