Tony La Russa, who a month ago reached baseball's pinnacle by being elected into baseball's Hall of Fame, now could be poised to climb yet another towering peak.
La Russa is on the Seattle Mariners' short list of candidates to replace outgoing president Chuck Armstrong, two baseball officials with knowledge of the search told USA TODAY Sports. They spoke on the condition of anonymity since the search process is ongoing.
Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln would neither confirm nor deny La Russa's candidacy, but divulged that the interview process began this week with two candidates within the Mariners' organization.
If Lincoln and the Mariners board of directors believe one of the internal candidates are suited for the job, they won't even bother looking to La Russa or someone outside the organization.
Editor's note:When contacted by KING 5, people in the Mariners front office said they are focused on two internal candidates for president and have not expanded the search yet.
Yet, with La Russa's high-profile resume and several prominent Major League Baseball officials recommending La Russa to Lincoln, he could be the odds-on-favorite to be the next Mariners' president, providing they open the search to outside candidates.
La Russa, when contacted, declined to specifically talk about the Mariners' opening, but acknowledged that he's interested in leaving his special assistant's job with Major League Baseball, and join a team's front office.
I'm interested in getting to the competition upstairs,'' La Russa said. I've missed the competition since I left the field. I talked to the commissioner [Bud Selig] about it. It's not a thing where you miss the dugout, but I miss the winning and losing.
The situation has to be right.''
And the Mariners' situation is ideal.
They are loaded with money, pitching, minor-league talent, and now a prized $240 million investment in second baseman Robinson Cano.
THE TANAKA SWEEPSTAKES: Mariners among at least a dozen in it
There's no reason the Mariners can't soon replicate the Seattle Seahawks' success across town, and earn back a slice of the Great Northwest's fan base, after being immersed in a 12-year playoff drought.
I think we're very well positioned,'' Armstrong told USA TODAY Sports. People are so excited about the Seahawks here. I think we can feed off that too. There's no question about it.
I remember when the [NBA] Sonics left town, people said that will help you. No, it soured people on professional sports. That's why I applaud the Seahawks. I hope they win the Super Bowl. It's got people feeling good about sports here, and I think it very well could carry over.''
Club presidents traditionally generate as much enthusiasm and passion for a team's fan base as the groundskeepers. They mostly are accountants. Lawyers. Men entrenched with deep financial skills.
The only club president in recent times to change that aura was Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, who dramatically helped transform the Rangers' image. He retired last October, with his iconic image intact, after six years on the job. The Rangers, certainly bolstered by shrewd general manager Jon Daniels and his staff, turned a decaying franchise into one of baseball's elite.
Now, the Mariners have an opportunity to do the same with La Russa.
Oh, it's not to say the Mariners don't have viable internal candidates. There are two men that have caught Lincoln's attention who are being interviewed this week. They may be perfect for the job.
Yet, no one would command the respect and admiration as La Russa, the Hall of Fame manager who won three World Series championships.
Certainly, he has proven he can lead people.
He knows virtually everyone in the game.
And he's got plenty of good friends in high places, including Howard Schultz, the chairman and CEO of Starbucks.
The Mariners hope to reach a decision within the next three weeks, Lincoln says, certainly, before Armstrong leaves office on Jan. 31. Yet, if there's a preferred candidate, Lincoln isn't tipping his hand.
It's going to be very difficult to fill Chuck's position,'' Lincoln said. It's difficult for someone to fill his shoes when you look at his years of service with the Mariners, his knowledge of the business of baseball, his close associations with people in baseball. He has a great respect and great admiration from everyone in the game.
This job requires knowledge of baseball, entails finance and accounting, and marketing and sales. Whoever gets this job should be fumier with cash-flow statements, making business decisions, dealing with player agents and the commissioner.
It's a lot of responsibility.''
La Russa could be an ideal fit.