La Russa as GM? Longtime coach thinks it would work

MESA, Ariz. -- Dave McKay spent the last 26 years with Tony La Russa, from the first days in Oakland to the last days in St. Louis.

He fully believes we've seen the last of La Russa as a manager. And also that we'll see La Russa working in baseball, whether it's running the Dodgers or another club.

"I can see him running a team," McKay said Friday. "And he'll definitely be successful. Tony's a bright, bright man."

La Russa has been mentioned as a possible top executive with the Dodgers, if Steve Cohen wins the bidding to buy the team from Frank McCourt. Others in baseball have noted his close relationship with White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and speculated that he could return to Chicago as general manager or in another executive role.

Already, La Russa has spent this spring picking the brains of friends who are general managers, spending several days shadowing Dave Dombrowski in Tigers camp, and talking to Walt Jocketty of the Reds.

"He's never one to lie around," McKay said. "He's not one to work in the yard. He loves the game."

McKay said that he wasn't surprised to see La Russa leave managing, and said that he believes that one thing that drove him out of the job was the way retaliation for beanballs is handled.

"Tony cares about his players more than anything in the game, and he was always a guy who defended his players," said McKay, who was La Russa's first-base coach with the A's and Cardinals, and now has the same job on Dale Sveum's first staff with the Cubs. "That's a part of the game that probably ran Tony out. He always said in meetings that if we have to retaliate, do it the right way, below the waist.

"He always said, 'I hate that part of the game.' I really think that might be one of the biggest reasons he got out."

Others have said that if La Russa does end up running a team, it would be hard to be the manager working for him. McKay disagrees.

"Not if you're doing your job," he said. "It was the same way with coaching for him. Tony wouldn't hesitate to say something if you let up on something, but if you did your job, it was fine."

McKay said because of the intensity La Russa showed while he was managing, outsiders didn't appreciate his sense of humor or ability to play pranks. He thinks that could change if La Russa is working in a front office.

"I think you might see a lighter side of him," McKay said.

Meanwhile, McKay has moved from one side of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry to the other, and people around the Cubs credit him with helping Sveum emphasize baserunning and defense this spring.

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