Griffin: LaCava shows Blue Jays loyalty
There are only 30 major-league baseball GM jobs out there in the sporting workplace, so it would seem that if you're an experienced, eminently qualified, middle-aged baseball man and you are offered one of those plum assignments and decide to turn it down, just as Jays' assistant Tony LaCava (centre in photo) did on Tuesday with the Orioles, there must have been some deep soul-searching, some extremely well thought out logic to staying put.
LaCava, with the Jays since 2002, was summoned back to Baltimore for a second interview on Monday, a sure sign that he was the handpicked front runner, especially after fellow candidate Jerry DiPoto had taken the Angels job in the meantime. But after talking with owner Peter Angelos and with manager Buck Showalter, LaCava respectfully declined. He had interviewed in the past with other teams, but had never reached this point before.
The decision in one way was stunning and in other ways was quite understandable. The 50-year-old LaCava was complimentary towards the process and the Baltimore organization, but the O's have had a sketchy recent history, a bad reputation in the business that has been clearly documented and must surely have left LaCava's Spidey senses tingling.
Here is a list of the likeliest Top 4 reasons why LaCava decided to remain in Toronto rather than leave the Jays' nest for birds of another colour:
1-Ever since being led by a pair of back-to-back Hall-of Fame GMs Roland Hemond and Pat Giilick ran the O's, the last time, in fact, that they made the playoffs, Angelos, whose picture surely appears in Wikipedia under the definition of "hand-on-owner", Baltimore has had five GMs in 13 years -- Frank Wren, Syd Thrift, Jim Beattie, the late Mike Flanagan and Andy MacPhail. This means that, dating back to Gilllick's final frustrating season at Camden Yards, adding to the list whoever next takes over, this will be the O's seventh GM in the past 15 seasons. That's not a great history of job security.
2-It's likely the final interview did not fulfill LaCava's expectations. The initial interview would have been mostly about LaCava's personality, vision of a front-office team and his own qualifications for leading a major-league organization into the future. As one of many candidates, you have a morning or afternoon to impress those in the room with your philosophy of building a winner, of dealing with players, agents, opposing GMs and your new bosses -- reasons why they should hire you. But the second interview, when the club shows they are interested, the show is on the other foot. It becomes more about what you can expect from the team in terms of support, payroll, autonomy, etc. Clearly, LaCava impressed the O's in Interview 1 more than the O's impressed LaCava in Interview 2. It's tough to turn down an opportunity to live a dream, but obviously not impossible.
3-LaCava must believe that the Jays are close to their goal of reaching the post-season and he wants to be a part of it. If he doubted and thought that the Jays were still building and that the season for finally contending was in 2014 or beyond, then the decision to remain with the Jays would have been more difficult. But, if he believes that contention will come in either 2012, or 2013 at the latest, then he would want to remain and see his subtle work in player development come to fruition. LaCava was hired by former GM J.P. Ricciardi, but when his fellow assistant GM Alex Anthopoulos was named to replace Ricciardi, two years ago, a job that LaCava also applied for, it was believed at the time that Tony would be looking for the next serious offer to exit the scene gracefully and get on with his life. However, Anthopoulos' first task was to meet with LaCava and explain how important he was to what they wanted to accomplish. LaCava remained and the two men have grown as friends and have developed into one of the most effective front-office teams in baseball, in terms of re-loading the farm system and accelerating the process of contending.
4-LaCava knows his time will come. The respected, career baseball executive realizes that every winter there will be GM jobs that open up. He is a Pittsburgh native and still resides there. The Pirates would be his dream job. He interviewed for the job the last time when Neal Huntington was named. But whenever his next GM interview arises he knows that he has become a major player on anyone's future list. And it will only thicken his resume if he's around when the Jays finally make it to the post season, using the fruits of his farm.
It would have been a tough decision for LaCava, or anyone that dreams of becoming a major-league GM, but remaining with the Jays is a win-win if he truly believes in what the organization is doing. Going to Baltimore, to an organization with a losing recent history and a farm system planted in shallow soil, sure there was a chance for short term gain but more likely for long term disappointment. It was surprising to see LaCava turn down the O's, but it was something he obviously felt he had to do. The Jays are glad he did.