I'm not typically a John Perrotto fan but I was surprised by his article today where he said:
"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."
I knew LaCava to be a Pirates man at heart but I didn't have a clue about LaCava the baseball man other than what I have read, so I asked a few around the game. One response I received echoed most of the others which went like this:
"If anyone is built to be the "prototype" of what Pittsburgh requires to return the Pirates to winning baseball, it's Tony LaCava. He not only is one of the most respected "baseball minds" in today's game, but also, he understands and respects the Pittsburgh market and its fans."
I think this is important because Robert Nutting has already stressed that his financial side of the house is in order and he's looking for an operations man with business capabilities.
Enter stage right, Tony LaCava with his obvious micro-marketing capability for Nutting: he has the ability to go one-on-one with the fans and business community as a local product with personal business interests in the area, the media since he's a take-charge leader, those in the industry since he's one of the game's most respected baseball minds, the players in the dugout because they can relate to him, and still be able to evaluate talent as good as anyone in the game at the end of the day while sipping coffee with Bud Selig.
Oh - and he wants the position so bad he can taste it for a reason all the other candidates don't - he's a loyal Pittsburgh Pirates fan at heart.
Now that's impressive.
Nutting could run down the road hiring Lucchino who was born in Pittsburgh and a Yale grad, or Duquette who he is friends with but out of the game for years, a Purpura type who was just axed, or even Sabean, Ryan, or Gargiola types.
But everyone of these men bring to the table at least one substantial problem for Nutting and the Pirates who are in the midst of the franchise's 15th consecutive losing season - none of them are viewed by those who purchase Nutting's product as a die-hard Pittsburgh Pirates man like LaCava is. And let's be totally blunt here - the fans have about had it with all the city slickers who talk out of the side of their mouth.
And I suppose LaCava could also be a blue-collar marketing boon for Nutting to boot.
Pirate fans may not remember when another die-hard Pirates man by the name of Hardy Peterson, 47 at the time, was given the Pirates General Manager/President reigns after spending eight years in scouting only to see his club win the "We Are Family" World Series in 1979. Like LaCava, he was a hard working man with extensive credibility in, and out, of the game.
The way I see it, Nutting has two choices - to bring in someone outside of Pittsburgh circles who may carry a name but not the complete package (the type we have seen fail for many moons in Pittsburgh) or has had the wind knocked out of them a bit over the years, or an honest-to-God, pure-bred Pirates Stallion who wants nothing more than to lead the way proving to the world that the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise is not only proud, but a winner.
For once I agree with Perrotto - Tony LaCava is a superior candidate for the Pittsburgh Pirates president position. It's time we get back to our roots.