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rolling out the welcome mat

a couple days ago the Sports Frog placed all 92 mlb, nba, and nfl franchises into a ranking matrix and spat out the results. the cardinals checked in at #4, behind the lakers, yankees, and celtics and just ahead of the spurs and the packers. the sf giants, dodgers, bears, and cowboys rounded out the top 10. whole lotta mystique in that group --- but what the hell are the san antonio spurs doing at #5? no offense intended --- lovely city, fine team --- but would you consider them a more storied franchise than the packers? the dodgers? the cowboys? i bet jerry jones did a spit take all over his laptop when he read that post. . . . .

bernie cites the cards' tradition as a prime reason that la russa decided to return for another couple of seasons. it's a humanizing piece and worth the read, even if tlr's professions of commitment to youth and statistical analysis ring more than a little hollow:

According to La Russa, young players are more enthusiastic, tend to stay healthier, and are more willing to learn.

"As opposed to these guys who got it all figured out," La Russa said. "There's a risk that (the older players) will lose that fire in their gut, because they've already sampled postseason success, they've already achieved financially, they have security.

"So if you ask me, to pick between a team that is just over the edge or brand-new, I'll take the brand-new."

the most interesting thing about these remarks is their possible implications vis-vis the general manager situation. tony doesn't have to make nice with the public, which is already solidly behind him; he doesn't have to make nice with jeff luhnow, who isn't his boss; he doesn't even have to make nice with dewitt, whose desire to bring tony back has been unconditional. but la russa might have an incentive to make nice with the new gm. of course, if the new gm is mozeliak, there'd be little need to utter pleasantries; he and mo have already established a working relationship. but if the gm were coming in from outside the organization, tony might have an interest in proclaiming his adaptability, if for no other reason than to present a unified front: we're all on the same page. the rift in the franchise is healed. at bottom, tony's an organization man --- fiercely loyal to his bosses and his players, dead serious about his responsibilities. if his bosses declare certain priorities, those become tony's priorities too --- in word, maybe even in deed. maybe i'm reading too much into his comments, but i think (hope) he was rolling them out as a welcome mat for the new regime.

about 10 days ago bernie wrote that "there will be no surprises; La Russa will know in advance who the GM is, and in one form or another, he will have given a thumbs-up." that was consistent with la russa's previous statements that he couldn't commit to returning without knowing who the gm was going to be. with la russa now officially back on board, we can safely conclude that the new gm has been identified. la russa's return has been a fait accompli since late last week --- wasn't official, but the only issues left undecided were the details of the contract; the core issue (stay or go?) had been resolved. at that point, one of the leading gm candidates, chris antonetti, still hadn't been talked to, because his team (the indians) was still in the playoffs. within hours after antonetti's team got knocked out, la russa's deal was finalized and his return as manager was formally announced to the public . . . . .

coincidence? maybe so. here's what tony said during his press conference yesterday (hat tip to Birdland; emphasis added):

Q: Tony what was the determination for you to get it done today?
TLR: I think the two issues –- what goes on with the front office -– it’s not the issue I thought it would be when we first talked about it. To be perfectly honest -– and he can hold me to it, everyone can hold me to it -– if he hires somebody tomorrow and that guy doesn’t want me, they can tear the contract up and I wouldn’t hold them up. I wouldn’t want to be here. I just don’t think that’s going to happen.
"if that guy doesn't want me . . . " doesn't sound like mozeliak. i think antonetti's the guy. call it a hunch.

if he's offered the job, i don't see how he can turn it down. the vacancies in anaheim, atlanta, minnesota, houston, pittsburgh have all been filled, and his moment as baseball's "it" boy won't last forever. besides, it's a primo job; we're the #4 franchise in all of sports, dammit. all signs point to this guy. here's an outstanding piece about him posted at USS Mariner last winter. read. enjoy. if it's him, we should know within a very short time.