At the risk of jumping the gun, I thought I'd look around to see what I could find on the would-be new mayor of NatsTown.
First, I pinged honorary Natmosphere blogger Keith Law about LaCava, and though he couldn't confirm the rumor, he said, "going from Jim Bowden to Tony LaCava would be like going from Austin Kearns to Albert Pujols." (I'm not sure Austin Kearns deserves the comparison to Jim, but otherwise I like where he's going.)
Nationals Farm Authority re-posted a blurb by Baseball Prospectus's Will Carroll from a column on up-and-coming young MLB executives. Here it is again, in case you missed it:
When you meet Tony La Cava, you learn two things. First, he knows everyone. Second, everyone loves him. La Cava might rightly be known as the nicest guy in baseball, and his extensive connections will be among his biggest asset when a team finally decides to give him his shot. With a scouting background, La Cava is known as one of the most savvy talent evaluators in the game, making him a perfect candidate for a team that needs to build through development. Most of the questions with LaCava focus on his team. Teams tend to hire from success, picking off the underlings of winning teams rather than the best of a mediocre bunch. At 46, LaCava is both young enough to have the energy to take on a rebuilding project and the experience to handle any situation. He'd be perfect for a team coming off a disappointment, says one insider. "He's a guy that can find a bright side in any thing," one journalist noted. "He could probably get more leeway on a cold start than any guy this side of Omar Minaya." It's a different style of charisma, but LaCava has "it."Jake at Bucco Blog was a booster of LaCava's when the Pirates were looking for a replacement for Dave Littlefield in 2007. He quotes John Perrotto writing in the Beaver County Times and unnamed baseball sources:
I'm not typically a John Perrotto fan but I was surprised by his article today where he said:Not everything out there is unequivocally positive, however. When the Mariners were conducting their GM search, the nonpareil team blog U.S.S. Mariner did a whole series of excellent posts, starting with this "gigantic post" listing a wide range of options. LaCava was an early leading candidate and drew praise from the USM crew, but Derek Zumsteg raised a concern that LaCava might be too safe, too vanilla:
"If Nutting really wants to make the Pirates competitive again, though, one man he should consider calling is Toronto Blue Jays player personnel director Tony LaCava."
Over the last sixteen days I have polled scouts, executives and others around the game, and baseball writers asking them two questions -- name the top three CEO and GM candidates for Pittsburgh.
Tony LaCava's name was in 57% of the 38 responses, more than any other person. That surprised me so I started asking more questions.
One highly respected upper echelon executive in the game today who was a member of the Pirates front office in 1979 recently told me:
"I would hope that the new Nutting ownership will be a step in the right direction. From my background, especially at the club level, leadership is the single most important element in the longer-term success of any business..
[LaCava] is a quality person and hard working. I have to suspect that he has grown considerably in his overall management capabilities in the roles that he's worked in player development. My further impression is that he's a loyal guy in his business relationships and very trustworthy, which can have a salubrious impact in an organization."
Here’s my worry, though — take LaCava or (Arizona AGM Peter) Woodfork. They may be good, but is that enough? I don’t want to be disparaging, but the AL West already has a lot of good and well-funded competition. A GM who’s on the top of the traditional, good-interview, gets-along, knows everyone pile might keep the team’s head above water but that’s not going to win championships. What makes them potentially one of the best GMs in the game, not just now but in a few years when the next crop of super-hybrid GMs arise, along with the next batch of best-of-the-old ones?Finally, I found this two-part interview from 2006 with the Jays blog Batters Box in which LaCava talks about a bunch of issues player development. It's hard to separate out which ideas are LaCava's and which are J.P. Ricciardi's, but there are things haven't gone so well for Toronto in the intervening years, and certainly there are things here you could pick on in hindsight if you were so inclined.