A “deadly embrace” or “deadlock”
is defined as a condition that occurs in the information technology industry
when two processes in a program are each waiting for the other to complete
before proceeding. The result is that both processes hang.
In layman’s terms, nothing
Doesn’t this describe to a “T” the
mess Bill DeWitt, Jr.’s St. Louis Cardinals are currently
They don’t have a general manager
and may not for two to three weeks while their field general is biding his time,
stalling for the new GM to be named before disclosing whether or not he will
return to the team.
The owner, not wanting to wait
much longer, is pressuring the manager to make his decision first. Potential
general manager candidates are likely scratching their heads over all this,
wondering exactly what they are considering getting into.
Just another sideshow in what has
been a most forgettable 2007 for The Cardinal Nation, arguably the worst
post-world championship season for any club in recent
Say you are a prospective general
manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. As you move into the interview phase, you
probably have a million questions as well as a plan to sell yourself to DeWitt
and team president Mark Lamping.
Among them is a giant question
mark, more potentially irritating than Matthew Lesko, the obnoxious, screaming
guy on late-night television hawking his “how to make money off the government”
books while wearing the most garish outfit ever stitched together.
The prospective GM’s question mark
is the identity of his highest-profile direct report, the field manager of the
Cardinals. On the positive side, at least the possibilities the general manager
candidate may face are not endless. They include:
get to name the manager myself, with approval from above.
be allowed significant input on the identity of the next
Russa will be my manager.
no idea whether La Russa will be my manager or not.
If I was interviewing, I would
certainly prefer case #1. I would imagine that most self-respecting GMs would
expect that level of responsibility delegated to them, especially given that
manager job may be open very soon.
However, the Cardinals are not
alone in that the ownership and senior executives seem to like to “help” their
GM make important decisions; hence the real possibility of option #2 existing.
Still, not unrealistic.
Option #3 wouldn’t be terrible,
either. At least La Russa has a track record and the GM would know what he is
getting into. Granted, Tony may be slightly-damaged goods based on the 2007
season and the brush-off his ex-boss was given by the same owner who ostensibly
wants him back for a 13th season.
Undoubtedly, the least
advantageous case for the prospective GM is #4, which also happens to be where
the situation rests today and for an indeterminate time in the future. No one
seems to know for sure what is going on.
Wouldn’t this ongoing uncertainty
provide a significant inhibitor to serious general manager candidates
considering the Cardinals?
DeWitt apparently is seeing this
problem first-hand, urging La Russa to show his hand sooner, rather than later.
didn’t tell him he needed to let me know today or tomorrow, but it needs to be a
reasonably short period of time,” said the owner to the Post-Dispatch this
before we attack La Russa for “holding the Cardinals hostage”, as one emailer
suggested to me, let’s look at it from the manager’s side. La Russa just saw his
boss and close associate Walt Jocketty unceremoniously sacked despite the ex-GM
having a year to go on his contract.
primary reason cited was a disagreement in philosophy, spiced with a
heaping portion of organizational dysfunctionality. It is reasonable to guess
that La Russa sided with Jocketty on these issues, and if so, it also would be
natural for Tony to be at least a bit nervous about how things could change
In La Russa’s case, his options
are among these:
to return the Cardinals before the GM is named.
the GM is named, determine if he can work with the guy before declaring his
DeWitt clearly is pushing option
#1, apparently unconcerned that if the wrong general manager is hired, his
organization's communication problems could simply shift to the GM-manager
relationship. That could happen if La Russa would be unhappy with the GM
selection and if so, would potentially be very, very
La Russa is pushing for #2, citing
personal experience with the White Sox, where he did not mesh with then-new GM
Hawk Harrelson, leading to a bad situation for all that burned valuable time and
energy to ultimately resolve via a firing.
If possible, why not head this off
this time? In an ideal world, I can see why La Russa prefers this scenario. But,
this isn’t nirvana. The Cardinals need to get their management team in place and
get to work on 2008 – La Russa or no La Russa.
Maybe Tony will take door #3 if
George Steinbrenner and his millions come calling, but I have this nagging
feeling that La Russa would prefer not to deal with the baloney that goes with
the Yankees job despite the resources available there to win
Just three years ago, La Russa tried to counsel then-free agent shortstop Edgar Renteria away from signing with Boston, knowing the relentless pressure and scrutiny would not agree with the sensitive player. As hindsight shows, Tony was 100% right. For his sake, I hope La Russa remembers that speech and is currently practicing it in his mirror.
Or, even if Tony wants to go, he
seems to be waiting for DeWitt to make the call for him. It’s almost as if the
two sides know the relationship is over, but neither has the guts to say what
needs to be said.
How does the deadlock, this deadly
embrace, get broken? Let’s head back to the dictionary for advice.
“Ideally, the programs that are
deadlocked, or the operating system should resolve the deadlock - but this
doesn't always happen,” says the textbook.
Clearly in this case, the man with
the money is the Cardinals’ operating system. It is time for DeWitt to break the
deadlock. That is very much a binary decision for the
La Russa to decide before hiring his GM.
his GM before forcing La Russa to answer.
Both present risk. While DeWitt
certainly seems to be on trajectory #1, it could cause him to lose La Russa and
elongate the process to fill his management positions. That could generate
discomfort in the short term but should wear off soon
On the other hand, the second
option might seem to provide the best chance for immediate success, or in the
words of the Cardinals brass, “getting everyone on the same page”. Ideally La
Russa would make his call knowing who his boss would be. And if the skipper
bailed out, the new GM could theoretically hire his own
If the GM search process can be
accelerated, and it doesn’t take two to three weeks more to get the new GM in
the chair, this option could be feasible.
There is seemingly a growing
segment of The Cardinal Nation that doesn’t care as much what happens as much as
they want to see something happen
sooner rather than later.
In deadlock-speak, they’re looking
for the operating system to intercede and break the deadly embrace. But, can
DeWitt crack the code?
Brian Walton can be reached via
email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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