Last night, Philadelphia Phillies Assistant GM of Player Development and Scouting Chuck LaMar resigned. Given the odd timing, abrupt nature of the departure, and cryptic comments of his former boss, the news will necessarily stoke the Chicago Cubs’ GM search rumor mill.
Of the resignation, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. said very little, and what he did say almost intentionally invites speculation.
“After some discussion, it seemed like for Chuck it would be the best situation to go ahead and resign,” Amaro said.
When asked why it would be “best,” Amaro said simply, “You’ll have to ask Chuck. I guess the feeling was it was an opportunity to have other pursuits, either inside or outside the game.” And when asked if there animosity, again, Amaro simply said, “You’ll have to ask Chuck.”
Let’s be clear on something: there are any number of reasons a guy might surprisingly resign, none of which have anything to do with the Chicago Cubs. Indeed, the odds are good one of those reasons animated LaMar’s decision.
Could it be that LaMar had been asked to interview for the Chicago Cubs’ GM position (“the feeling” that LaMar was leaving “to have opportunities”), and the Phillies’ brass wasn’t too keen on letting him step out for a look-see in the middle of a pennant race? So, together they “decided” that it would the “best situation” if LaMar would resign?
I hate to be a total rumor mongeror, but, yes, it is possible.
You’ll note that I’m willing to go only so far as to suggest a possible connection between the resignation and an interview, not an actual job with the Cubs. Why? If LaMar had already interviewed and was leaving the Phillies for a position with the Cubs, the statements wouldn’t be on the order of “we talked and decided it would be best if Chuck resign;” they would be something more like “Chuck has told he’s leaving to take a position with the Cubs.”
That said, if this is connected to the Cubs in any way – and that’s a huge if right now – folks tend not to abruptly leave their current jobs (especially high up jobs in extremely successful organizations) for the mere whisper of another possible job. No, if this is at all related to the Cubs, then LaMar has at least gotten the sense that he has a good shot at landing the Cubs’ gig.
LaMar’s history is a bit of a mixed bag. At 55, he’s been in the game a long time. Notably, he was the director of minor league operations for the Pirates in 1989-90 (which immediately preceded the team’s most successful period) before moving on to become the director of player development and scouting, and then an assistant GM, with the Atlanta Braves for most of the 1990s. In 1998, LaMar took over as the first GM of the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays, where he lasted for seven losing seasons. LaMar has been with the Phillies since 2007, and had been and assistant GM and the team’s director of player development and scouting since 2008.
LaMar would be a largely unsurprising candidate – his primary focus over his years in the game has been player development, and he comes from several winning organizations in which he’s had past success (some would argue that the Rays’ current success is a legacy of LaMar’s tenure – I’m not sure I’d argue that, but some would).
But, by the same token, LaMar would be a relatively uninspiring candidate. He had seven years in charge of the Rays, and the team was miserably bad. Sure, a big part of that is the nature of an expansion franchise, but LaMar’s moves hardly ever paid off. He’s been wildly successful in non-GM roles, but when you’ve got a seven year stretch like that with which to evaluate a candidate, it’s hard to be excited about those assistant-type jobs. Given Tom Ricketts’ desire to remake the Cubs’ organization, and the indefinable sense that he’s looking for more of an up-and-comer type, LaMar feels like a bad fit. On the other hand, if Ricketts intends to be deeply involved in all baseball decisions, maybe an older, experience GM like LaMar makes sense to Ricketts – even if it doesn’t excite us.
So is LaMar actually a candidate? Outside of our open speculation – which, I suppose could be ample, given the strange resignation, the seeming fit, and the ample connections between LaMar and the Cubs (Phillies’ advisor Pat Gillick, despite his denials, is probably one of Tom Ricketts’ trusted baseball sources; Ryne Sandberg manages the Phillies’ AAA club; Tim Wilken worked for LaMar in Tampa Bay for three years) – I don’t think we can know for sure, until something solid leaks.
We’ll see what happens. Though, I have to say: if the Cubs do have their pick of the GM litter, as many have suggested (aside, perhaps, from Epstein, Cashman, Friedman), LaMar would seem like a strange choice, no?