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Why would La Russa be a candidate for Mets GM?

I don’t know if ESPN’s Buster Olney has been having some really bad dreams or he has actually found the pulse of one of baseball’s strangest franchises – the New York Mets.

In an ESPN Insider article on Thursday, Olney lists seven men he sees as logical candidates to become the next general manager of the Metropolitans. To begin to try to understand, one must get past the fact that club ownership has already said the incumbent GM, Omar Minaya, will be back next season.

Devastated by injuries, the Mets are much closer to last place than first as this season nears its end. As the losses have mounted, the pressure increases for someone to blame.

Less than 12 months ago, Minaya was given a new three-year deal that covers the 2010-2012 seasons with club options for two more. Apparently that can be taken to the bank (as in financial commitment), but should not be taken to necessarily mean Omar will be in the same chair come 2010.

Another factor that seems to put Olney out on a limb is the precarious position of Mets owner Fred Wilpon. A Friday FOX Business article says Wilpon lost $700 million in the Bernie Madoff scandal and will be forced to sell the team as soon as next year as a result. Why would the financially-strapped Wilpon want to eat another contract?

Still, anyone who has seen Minaya in action in front of the press has to wonder how he managed to secure that extension in the first place, despite his nice-guy reputation. Several of his public appearances have been downright uncomfortable and at times, embarrassing.

Specifically consider the circumstances surrounding the firings of then-manager Willie Randolph at 3 a.m. and VP Tony Bernazard. During the press conference to announce the latter, Minaya accused a sportswriter of angling for Bernazard’s job. (see video)

I won’t steal Olney’s thunder by sharing his entire unrealistic list of “candidates”, many of whom are under multi-year contracts elsewhere and therefore are not even available. Oddly, three of his seven are managers with no GM experience, including one Tony La Russa.

Olney does acknowledge the risks of putting La Russa and the New York press together (see Minaya problems above) but also makes the very questionable assumption that pitching coach Dave Duncan would be part of a package deal. Do GMs need pitching assistants?

In fairness, Olney’s broad thought is not original – others have previously floated the idea of La Russa as a future GM, too.

I admit that I didn’t see it then and I don’t see it now. La Russa is a West Coast man, turning 65 years of age this fall.

His teams have amassed over 2,500 wins and he is fewer than 230 victories away from the second-most all-time, passing John McGraw.

The fire to win each and every game is what seems to drive La Russa year after year. That could not be stoked by sitting in a GM’s chair anywhere, especially in New York.

Even without the mess with the Mets, why would La Russa even consider such an idea?

I just don’t think he would.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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