Dr. D's Fortune 500 Forum: Tony La Russa


New column!  Fortune 500 Forum :- )   :: crowd goes wild ::

:: buried in crumpled Dixie Cups ::


Ahem.  :: taps microphone ::


A Tale of Two Engines, Dept.

In the late 80's and early 90's, Boeing launched a critical new program, the one that produced the 777 jumbo jet.  Only two engines, but transatlantic.  Quality Assurance was critical, because the FAA wasn't going to sign off on two-engine ocean flights unless ... well, you get the idea.

With programs like this, there is just a leeeeetle bit more at stake than a 71-91 won-loss record.  It isn't like Boeing execs have less pressure on them than does Howard Lincoln.

They put a bright young 30-something executive in charge of their sparkly-new Quality Assurance department.  Think Keanu Reeves.

This bright young executive needed, in turn, an ideas man, somebody who could help him move QA into the next generation.  That ideas man happened to be ... guess who?  You got it.  'twas Your Humble Correspondent.

Keanu was not messing around, when he said he wanted to go next-generation.  Before Keanu hired Dr. D, he put Dr. D through a long series of interviews.  In these, Dr. D was required to demonstrate new ideas, respond to skeptical questions, and the like... one time Dr. D was asked to produce a list of 20 different process improvements to the QA system.  

Something which, by the way, had Dr. D wallowing in white boards and dry-erase markers.

This bright young executive wanted real improvement.  And so he wanted outside consultants, people who had NOT worked inside the system, people who could bring ...



We Been Putting Planes In the Air for 40 Years, Dept.

There are good reasons to hire from within.  There are good reasons for groupthink.  There are times when the priority is to get everybody on the same sheet of music.   Sometimes you need to stop asking questions, and just get the final print into the can.

This, however, wasn't the time.

The 50-something executive ABOVE Keanu Reeves ... think Anthony Hopkins ... hired the people UNDER Keanu.  

He hired them all out of Defense and Space.  We got a bunch of crusty old military vets (no offense Bat571!) who were personally offended at the idea that their DNSG processes could be improved.

The 60-something DNSG manager -- think Tommy Lee Jones -- liked me, but he flat told me "We ain't going to give you a permanent job until we get BOEING tatoo'ed onto your forehead, kid."  What he meant by that is hard to explain ... there is a Defense & Space way of thinking about things, a way of prioritizing things, a way of finishing the boss's sentences for him, in the way he wants you to.

Tommy Lee liked Dr. D fine, on a personal level.  As a no-nonsense military vet, he also liked Dr. D's ability to complete in 1 day, what took one of his people 30 days to complete.  What he did not like, was Dr. D's tendency to recommend changes.  

We mention that factoid at this point, only because --- > one of those two things was more important to Tommy Lee than the other.  Guess which one?

And are we connecting the dots vis-a-vis Nintendo lawyers yet?

To make a long, sad story short, it all got wayyyyyy behind schedule.  About four months on, the Anthony Hopkins exec fired Keanu, and fired Tommy Lee, and threw pretty much everybody else under the bus.  Except Dr. D and a few other rain-makers, but these also lasted only a few months longer.  

Sir Hopkins had thought that Keanu + Tommy Lee would provide synergy.  Instead it provided a clustermess of galactic proportions, as some of us tried to IMPROVE things while others fought bitterly to STABILIZE things.


Loyalty ... to Whom?, Dept.

Fast forward ten years, at which point Dr. D is consulting for a certain software giant operating out of Renton.  Comes the time, a year in, when down comes a directive to cut costs.

A 4th-level exec decides, in one swoop of the pen, that there's a great way to do so.  This is his excuse to release all "consultants," while retaining all permanent employees.

I am here to tell you that this exec chopped off some World. Class. Talent. when he did that.  Think Carl Sagan types who were "consulting" with permanent workers comparable to the Pointy-Haired Boss in Dilbert.  One guy, I'll call him Jack N., always had three-to-six people crowding around his desk begging him to solve their software problems for them.  The permanent workers were constantly resorting to us consultants to fix their messes.

In the steering committees, I'd facilitate, twelve "suits" would sit around the table, thirty workers would be on the walls, and Jack N., would throw out answers to any problem posed by anyone in the room, any organization.  Jack N. left, the worker drones stayed.


Why would you blow your own foot off like that?  Very simple.  The exec simply felt like, if you aren't loyal enough to us to commit to a permanent position, then I don't want you around.  

In reality, he liked guys who jumped through hoops on command.  He wanted employees who were "broken to the yoke," guys who would not "spit the bit" in a crisis.  He rationalized this as rewarding loyalty.  In reality, if he had been loyal to his end customers, he would have kept the people who produced a better product.

The brilliant contract workers left.  The less-brilliant permanent workers stayed.  Service and defects got worse - a lot worse.  But he'd made his point.   Whatever it was.   :: shrug ::  Later, a massive housecleaning took place.


This illustrates a simple point:  when high-level execs promote from within, they will TELL you that they are rewarding loyalty.  What they really want, usually, is underlings who are easy to work with. 

Also, some execs find Subject Matter Experts like Jack N. to be ... embarrassing.  Here you are, pulling down $300K a year, and a Subject Matter Expert is reprising Albert Einstein while you look on open-mouthed.

Billy Beane cheerfully admitted that he is "always the dumbest guy in the room," and that's how he wants it.  Zduriencik goes through the same thing; his stats analysts are smarter than he is.  Jack Z doesn't mind.  You've heard Jack say "Bill James is a whale of a lot smarter than I am, but..."

GM's, in baseball, are expected to work with Einsteins.  I don't notice that this is true of Howard Lincoln, do you?

It is possible that Howard Lincoln could find it embarrassing to work with Tony La Russa?


If an exec really wants to improve things, if he is really motivated to do that, he'll bring in outside people.  For exactly the same reason that he changes field managers:  a new manager sees through the blind spots that the old one had.


Vis-a-Vis Tony La Russa 

When Howard Lincoln gave his interview recently, he made one (1) major point about Chuck Armstrong.

Chuck is connected, you understand.  Chuck has influence in the game.  The only way the Mariners get many things done, is because Chuck Armstrong has credibility with the other 29 organizations.

Okay, here comes Tony La Russa, who unquestionably and obviously brings this credential, to such a degree as to dwarf that of any internal Mariner candidate.  You would now pass over La Russa's "fresh perspective" and industry clout, in order to keep a loyal henchman under you ... why?


Incidentally, Dr. D is not a huge IQ guy, but ... in the 1980's, anyway, there was a persistent undercurrent (outside the game) that La Russa was some sort of 170-IQ genius.  He does have a law degree from FSU, has passed the bar exam, yada yada yada.  

The point is, if Nintendo wants raw intellectual horsepower on the team, La Russa brings that too.


Where the animals charity thing fits in, I dunno ... I'd rather see people putting that kind of effort into helping children who are dying in the Philippines.  But "the righteous man regards the life of his beast"...

Compassion for animals isn't the worst thing in the world to include in your public "brand."  Obviously the Mariners, in PC Seattle, could create an entire movement off of La Russa's genuine compassion for animals.

Ordinarily, this "skill set" of La Russa's would snowball into an avalanche of obvious advantages that swept away all in its wake...

There is one big negative that attaches to La Russa's hiring.  He would mean an authentic improvement, er change, in the way the Mariners operate.  Improvement, er, change can be a hassle.


Fortune 500 Forum.  You'll be able to tell a whale of a lot by the Tony La Russa decision.  The decision will be a window into Lincoln's business soul.

That's my opinion I could be wrong,




Mostly this shouldn't even be a discussion. La Russa should be our man. For formality sake, go ahead and interview an internal candidate....then hire La Russa. How could any internal candidate think they were more qualified for that position? One of the most respected baseball minds over the last 30 years comes to us.....and we haven't anybody even close in terms of what La Russa can bring about "winning cultures."
Hire the man.


Divish advocates splitting the position in two - one guy focused on the operations and one guy focused on baseball. I think that makes a lot of sense. Get a "make the trains run on time" COO to handle all of the business aspects of the job and devote the President to the baseball side of the equation. By all means, hire internal for that first position. But go for a Torre or a LaRusa type for the latter. A hire like that could be transformative for the entire organization. More transformative than any FA signing or payroll figure.


Devils advocate question... What does the GM do then? Isn't that like having two GMs? Talk about a meddlesome front office (though certainly more competent). Why not just make LaRussa GM then?


Are the M's grooming some bright young man or woman we haven't heard about? Maybe LaRussa made a mistake in his cover letter, suggesting his goal is to bring a World Series to Seattle. That would certainly complicate things in Lincoln's mind. Gotta stay focused on the mission, whatever that is.

Brent's picture

I don't deny that La Russa wins. He's won everywhere he's been. He is very well thought of in baseball circles. Why am I a bit put off by him being the man in charge when Canseco and McGwire were doping in Oakland, and again in St. Louis with McGwire, and claiming he had no knowledge of any of it? Denying it even happened? McGwire assures us that La Russa had no knowledge, but that sounds like falling on his sword to protect his long-time manager. La Russa sees these players every single day for months on end, and is known as extremely detail-oriented, knowing what's going on in his clubhouse. For him to toss it aside as "hard work, not juicing" seems like turning a blind eye, of not wanting to know why these guys are pumped up like bodybuilders. It just nags at me for some reason.

Rob's picture

I'm pulling for KM, mainly because he's been so accessible via twitter.

OBF's picture

#1 Jeff Clarke... :)
#1A LaRussa
In the shout box.
However, one devil's advocate thought did come to mind... No Doubt Tony LaRussa was a brilliant Baseball Manager... However wouldn't assuming a great manager can also make a great high level executive be the exact some fallacy in logic that led Nintendo to think a great software/hardware business executive/lawyer, would also make a great baseball executive???
IOW, Howard Lincoln was a GREAT executive when he was leading Nintendo against Sega and Sony.... Sure didn't make him a great baseball exec. Same applies to LaRussa... Picking a PH or making a bullpen decision late in a playoff game, or choosing a 25 man roster out of ST??? No doubt LaRussa would be an excellent choice to maker those decisions.... but why would that make him a great baseball exec???
Of course no getting around the fact that of any and all applicants LaRussa would certainly have the most credibility and Cache both inside baseball and with the fans...


but Tony LaRussa's influence in the organization in his later years with the Cardinals extended well beyond simply being the on-field manager. I seem to recall he was instrumental in shaping the organization that has taken root since he left and maintained his success. If I am wrong in this, then I might agree with you. On the other hand, the guy is a lawyer, has deep roots and connections at all levels of the game, and seems to be the kind of guy who succeeds at whatever he puts his hand to. Then again, I'm not sure I'd want him learning on the job at age 69. I'm interested to hear others' thoughts on whether my view of his role in the Cardinals organization is valid.


At the very least he should have insight how an upper-mid-level market team can sustain success. Of course, in order to correct the M's course, he'd probably have to step on some toes, so...


... and is wondering where he could get free advice on gall bladder disorders ;- ) ... one time I slept like 36 hours in a 39-hour period.  Odd, the fatigue associated.
He seems to be feeling better, so, henceforth cometh the notorious 6-part series ... :: buried in crumpled Dixie cups ::


If that helps in getting you back to info-taining us for free. But, there isn't much to write about this time of year. The major FA holdout suppressing the entire off season is the most aggravating plot line there is. At least with this Tanaka thing there is a time limit on it. Whatever happens has to be done by January 24th. The Prince Fielder hot stove season was far more irritating.


between this year and the Prince Fielder season was that we signed our guy and have many things to be legitimately excited about. In the Prince Fielder season, the Mariners had signed absolutely nobody. Now, we have Cano and Hart. Its already been an outrageously good off season compared to prior ones.


And do cranberry pills do just as well?  I usually don't drink my calories, but ... at this point am quite willing to change paradigms ...


And am not really sure what a gall bladder does or doesn't do (though it seems they can be amputated without being missed). Just trying to give generic health advice that you don't really want to hear. As in,
"I have headaches"
"Have you tried Doterra?"
"My feet hurt"
"I hear good things about chamomile extract"
Whenever someone says they are sick, it is customary amongst people who think they know everything to give know it all health advice about their particular snake oil cure.  James Herriot, the veterinarian, used to write about this.  The know it all in his particular village was the dog food maker who did snap post mortems on Herriot's less successful patients.  The dog food maker said that Herriots patients all died of "stagnation o' the lungs".
With all that said, you can't go wrong with cranberry juice.  The tannins in the juice help absorb infection and the extra Vitamin C supercharges the production of T-800 antibodies.  Think of them as your own lil' terminators.


Sorry to hear that, man. Please feel free to PM me. Cranberry juice may help prevent recurrences of urinary bladder infections by acidifying their one and making it harder for bacteria to stick to the bladder wall. However I'm not aware of any benefit in the gall bladder. GB medicine is kind of like horse medicine. You can't really repair it so you remove it. Fortunately you can live without it... usually by the time the GB needs to come out it hasn't been working well for quite some time and most therefore don't notice a difference. Some people develop loose stools but that is usually easily managed medically.
The key is to try to pinpoint he GB as the culprit based on the symptoms and imaging.


But I'd hate to impose.  Pretty mind-blowing that you'd offer, though.
Everything I've seen is along the lines of what you indicated ... either manage the dietary fat intake, and/or live with the symptoms, and/or have it taken out.  Some people have told me that Apple Cider Vinegar helped them throughout their lifetimes; I'll limit my free medical inquiries to asking your $0.03 on ACV :- )


Not a problem. No imposition at all, anytime. I did some reading about ACV and I think it falls into the category of "possibly helpful (not miraculous), probably not harmful". There's no good evidence to suggest that it's helpful though there are theoretical benefits.  The mechanism is supposedly that it thins the bile and softens up the gallstones.  The theoretical problem is that this might make the stones more likely to get out of the gallbladder and into the common bile duct.  This can plug the duct and also cause pancreatitis (gallstones are the no 1 cause of pancreatitis in the US).  OTOH, there is an approved medication (ursadilol) that can dissolve gallstones and theoretically could cause similar problems and I've never heard anyone express that concern.  Ursadilol is expensive, has its own side effects, and gallstones tend to reform once the medicaton is discontinued.  For this reason, it is used mainly in pts that are a prohibitive surgical risk.  Also it only works for cholesterol stones (most common).
Cholesystectomy is routine and safe (though not without real risks however) and has a quick recovery when performed minimally invasively.  It is useful in several circumstances:  acute cholecystitis (people go to the hospital with unrelenting pain etc), multiple frequent standard attacks, or when chronic low level symptoms become lifestyle limiting.  Obviously the last category is fairly subjective and only the pt can decide when he's "had enough".  It is easier and safer to have the GB out when the GB is not inflamed.  However, it seems that it is impossible to predict the behavior of an individual pt's future symptoms.  

Lonnie of MC's picture

... to corral her gall bladder issue for three years through diet, and all it gave her was three years of pain. I don't know about you, but she had stones in her gall bladder. The procedure for removal of the gall bladder is pretty slick, they do it arthroscopicly (sp....) and it is outpatient surgery. In... Out... Pain is gone.


Since you've coaxed me into taking advantage a little.
I was enthused about ACV for a lot of reasons, and tried it a while back... probably about 1 to 1.5 ounces before dinner.  About day 5 or 6, my digestion, usually fine, was a catastrophe.  LOL.
Supposing I did one teaspoon a day, or every other day, or somesuch ... if you were (hypothetically) going to try to use ACV to thin bile, would you *guess* that a teaspoon a day would be efficacious toward that end?  Is there a "minimum effective dose"?
Of course there aren't likely to be any clinical studies that answer the question, but I'd be better off with an educated guess than with nothing.
As far as timing... my attacks have been about 8 hours after a heavy meal.  If ACV were the approach, I'd take it when?
If those aren't appropriate questions, or are annoying to deal with, all apologies.  Thanks for the intel above.  :: daps ::


If I decide to do it, it better be during a quiet time ...   I had a friend go in for emergency surgery and they had to gut 'im like a fish :- )
But yeah.  I had an umbilical repair and it was like getting the oil changed in your car, practically.  Always enjoyed general anaesthesia....


Ask away! Really no more an imposition than me reading this blog for baseball info! It looks like the most common recs are 1-2 oz in ~16 oz of water or apple juice (lots of sugar with the juice, though) daily to several times a day. Will be pretty acidic. No scientific or even observational basis for dosage/use recs, it looks like. Taking something quite acidic routinely could have an effect on your GI bacteria balance which could explain your prior experience with ACV (or it could just as easily have been a coincidence). As far as efficacy, I have to say that if ACV were really dramatically effective, then self-insured groups like Kaiser-Permanente would be using it as a way to reduce their surgical and medicine costs. Maybe they just haven't gotten around to studying it yet, but GB surgery is one of the most common operations in the US and any easy cheap effective alternative would be highly, highly attractive. There are numerous precedents for medical treatments replacing surgical treatments- the introduction of PPI acid blockers dramatically reduced anti-reflux surgery and virtually eliminated stomach ulcer surgery, for example. On ACV, everything seems limited to single person testimonials and anecdotes… highly susceptible to selection bias. Even the Cochran Reviews Library returns zero results for ACV.
I have seen some testimonials where pts took AVC in the midst of an attack, and then experienced relief subsequently "within 15 min".  May have been coincidence.  15 min is too quick for the body to absorb and process ACV, get it to the GB, and then thin the bile or dissolve stones.  However, it is possible that something in the ACV either counteracts or blocks signals from the stomach to the GB that tell the GB to contract (presence of fats stimulate this signal) and therefore the GB relaxes.  No way to say... it's just unstudied.


... no results whatsoever.  
Large doses of Vitamin C (anything above 1000 mg daily) have always had the same diarrheal effect, so... guess I'll suspect the ACV, rather than coincidence, in my own case.  So, if 1+ ounces per day is the suggested baseline dose, then that may be out for me.
That, together with your concerns about efficacy, have me leaning against it as a "lifelong home remedy" supplementation, at least for GB issues.
We laymen tend to suspect that the medical *industry* (as a self-sustaining organism) is actively unfriendly to millenia-old home remedies such as green tea, cinnamon, red wine, etc -- actually rooting against them -- because of the profit incentive.  
I've seen many medical sources irritatedly dismiss promising "home remedies" (such as St. John's Wort in place of Zoloft) with "If a prescription can do the same thing, why turn to nutrition?"  Sounds exaggerated, but it's not.  I've literally seen people say that -- *all things being equal,* then the intervention keeps us in control of the patient's situation.  ... never mind "all things being equal" -- if Prozac and Zoloft have increased side effects, some sources still prefer it to St. John's Wort, even assuming equal efficacy.  Such attitudes leave the patient confused as to how much to trust the industry.
So it is instructive to note that *some individual doctors* do monitor those independent sources that are not dominated by profit motive, as you seem to do.  Ray Sahelian seems to be such a doctor?
Which is one reason that we patients value a trusted doctor so highly.  A man we trust; an institution, less so.  Dr. Oz is weird, and I don't watch him, but he comes across as less dominated by profit motive (and himself very healthy and vital), so he's got the rabid following.
the Hodge Twins joke, "we're going to sell a $29 e-book with one page.  It will say, Try it and see if it works for you."  Heh!
Your specific technical feedback on ACV, and its mechanisms, were PRECISELY what I was after, in order to make a little bit better-informed decision.  Thanks Dr.

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