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MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Front office an ideal next step for La Russa

Hall of Fame manager well suited to assume role of new Mariners president

Tony La Russa is ready for the next step in his baseball career.

He has been a player. He has been a manager. Right now, he's biding his time as a special assistant to Commissioner Bud Selig.

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La Russa's future, however, is in the front office of a team. He could be a general manager. He might be a president. He will, however, be one or the other.

And this week, the time table for La Russa to get back to focusing on making a team a champion got a push. His name is on a list of possibilities to replace Seattle Mariners president Chuck Armstrong, who will retire Jan. 31.

There have not been any informal talks, much less an interview of La Russa. Seattle is initially considering in-house candidates. If, however, they decide to go outside, the Mariners are intrigued by the 69-year-old La Russa.

In the world of marketing, this is a grand slam.

The word has spread throughout the baseball world. And so there is no longer any question about La Russa's desire to return to working for a ballclub.

La Russa is a competitor, and competitors are geared for the challenge of wins and losses. They can root for the game to grow, but they don't sit comfortably without an emotional time. They enjoy the challenge of building a team into a winner.

La Russa experienced that as a manager. That's why last month he was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Expansion Era Committee, along with fellow managers Bobby Cox and Joe Torre.

Managing, however, is part of La Russa's past. His future will be in a front office.

La Russa is a unique blend. He's a baseball rat. He played pro ball for 15 years, the bulk in the Minor Leagues. La Russa spent parts of six seasons in the big leagues, appearing in only 132 games, and spent each of his final four seasons in uniform in the Minor Leagues.

In the meantime, La Russa was earning his law degree from Florida State University. Never did use that law degree, though.

La Russa never really left the dugout. He went from playing for Triple-A New Orleans in the White Sox system in 1977 to managing Double-A Knoxville in the White Sox system in 1978, and managing the big league White Sox a year later.

Thirty-three years later -- after terms in Chicago, Oakland and St. Louis -- La Russa retired, having led the Cardinals to a World Series championship in 2011 as his final act. He finds himself third on the all-time managerial win list (2,728), having won three World Series titles and six pennants.

La Russa won an AL West title in Chicago in 1983. He won his first World Series in 1989, and American League pennants in 1988 and '90 in Oakland. He won the World Series in St. Louis in 2006 and '11, taking the Cards to the postseason nine times.

When La Russa took off the uniform for the last time, it wasn't a secret he wasn't walking away from the game. It's too much a part of him.

There actually was speculation the day he retired as a manager that he would quickly rejoin the White Sox, where owner Jerry Reinsdorf to this day remains one of La Russa's closest friends. La Russa, however, wasn't ready.

La Russa needed time to clear his mind, let the emotions die down and identify just what challenge he really wanted. He is not a seat-of-the-pants decision-maker. La Russa analyzes. He wants to know the pluses and the minuses.

And 15 months after taking off the uniform for the last time, he has had time to evaluate his next move.

La Russa has a unique blend -- the man who was so committed to reaching his goal that while he bounced around the Minor Leagues, chasing a dream, he was able to earn his law degree.

He has proven himself to be a winner in life.

He has proven himself to be a winner on the field.

Now La Russa is ready to prove himself to be a winner in the front office.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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