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Mariners set to look internally for new president

Despite reports of interest in La Russa, club likely staying in-house in search

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SEATTLE -- The search to replace longtime Mariners president Chuck Armstrong will intensify next week, when the club's board of directors interviews two internal candidates for the position, according to a source with knowledge of the process.

While USA Today reported that Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa is on the short list of candidates for the job, the Mariners appear to be leaning toward staying within their organization to replace Armstrong, who had been the club president for 28 of the franchise's 37 years.

The Mariners have not scheduled any interviews with outside candidates, and they won't do so if the board chooses one of the internal candidates and ends the search next week.

While there has been no indication of which internal candidates are being considered, the Mariners have several longtime executives with impressive track records -- both with the team and around baseball.

Bob Aylward has been the team's executive vice president of business operations since 1997 and previously held similar jobs with the Rays and Orioles. Kevin Mather has been executive vice president of finance since 1996 after working with the Twins.

Bart Waldman has been the team's executive vice president of legal affairs since 2006, and Kevin Martinez has been the vice president of marketing since 2001 and has been with the organization for 22 years.

The board of directors' voting members consist of CEO Howard Lincoln, former Microsoft executive Chris Larson, former Nintendo president Minoru Arakawa, former Mariners CEO John Ellis, former Microsoft executive Raymond "Buck" Ferguson, former NextLink Communications CEO Wayne Perry and former Boeing CEO Frank Shrontz.

Armstrong, 71, is scheduled to work through Jan. 31, and the club expects to have his replacement in place by the time he leaves.

La Russa, 69, won three World Series titles during his 33 years as a manager before retiring after taking the St. Louis Cardinals to a championship in 2011. He's since been working as a special assistant with Major League Baseball. La Russa has never worked for a team's front office, but he is clearly intrigued by the notion.

"I'm interested in getting to the competition upstairs," La Russa told USA Today. "I've missed the competition since I left the field. I talked to the Commissioner [Bud Selig] about it. It's not a thing where you miss the dugout, but I miss the winning and losing. The situation has to be right."

While the Texas Rangers had success with Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan as CEO in recent years, he stepped down last October. The vast majority of Major League clubs operate with more of a business-oriented person rather than a "baseball man" as the club president, given that position deals extensively with finances, marketing and sales in addition to overseeing baseball operations.

All teams have a general manager in charge of baseball operations, which is Jack Zduriencik in the Mariners' case. But only a handful -- including the White Sox, Cubs, Brewers and Rockies -- have a top baseball executive or general manager who reports to ownership on an equal level with a club president.

The White Sox promoted former general manager Kenny Williams to executive vice president of baseball operations in 2012 to work alongside executive VP Howard Pizer. The Cubs hired former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein as their president of baseball operations in 2011, alongside president Crane Kenney.

The Rockies go with Dan O'Dowd as general manager and executive vice president on the baseball side, alongside business vice president Greg Feasel. And the Brewers have a front-office structure with general manager and baseball operations president Doug Melvin on equal footing with chief operating officer Rick Schlesinger.

But the majority of clubs have stayed with the same structure as the Mariners, with baseball operations reporting to a business-oriented team president, who then reports to ownership.

Whether the Mariners choose to split those duties differently remains to be seen, but indications are that they'll stay with a similar setup if they hire from within when the board meets next week.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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