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January 9, 2014 at 4:02 PM

An update on the search for Chuck Armstrong’s replacement

Lost in all of the Robinson Cano signing hysteria and the debate about supplementing of the roster around him, including fretting about Masahiro Tanaka, the Mariners are in the process of replacing president Chuck Armstrong, who is retiring at the end of the month. CEO Howard Lincoln said today that he believes they will have a successor named by then.

The Mariners are furthering the search process in the next week by interviewing internal candidates. There has been no specific of who those internal candidates might be, but it’s fair to say that Kevin Mather, who is executive vice president of finance and ballpark operations, and Bob Aylward, who is executive vice president of business operations, are likely candidates.

The organization will also interview a few external candidates. One of them appears to be former Cardinals’ manager Tony LaRussa, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

LaRussa has been working for commissioner Bud Selg since retiring as Cardinals manager two years ago. But he’s made it clear that he’d like to work for an organization in a front office capacity. I even asked him about replacing Armstrong at the winter meetings. He’s a logical candidate.

LaRussa has all the baseball qualifications that a person could ask for. Will that make him a great team president? There’s no guarantee. He’s smart and knows the game better than anyone, but the duties of the position are as much business and bureaucracy than actual on-field baseball. Think about this way, Andrew Friedman of the Rays is considered one of the best executives in all of baseball and he has none of LaRussa’s qualifications.

We really don’t if LaRussa would be a good president since he’s never done it before.

But he is a name that fans recognize. His reputation has been earned. If the Mariners decided to go in a different direction, there will be a fair amount of consternation from fans.

At this point, it seems as though the Mariners might be leaning toward an internal candidate. The transition would be easier because of the familiarity within the organization for all involved. That doesn’t mean there would be no change in thinking. Armstrong did things his way based on his longevity within the business, but any replacement – internal or external – will likely bring different thinking to the job.

I have no favorite for this position. For me, I think the structure of the front office should be modified and the president’s responsibilities split into two entities – business and baseball. Two jobs, two different people that specialize in each area and have them work together. The Diamondbacks have a similar split. But Lincoln has said on multiple occasions that he has no plans to do that.




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