Friday, July 06, 2007

Reds Owner Robert Castellini Will Play Italian Card

What's all this talk about Reds owner Robert Castellini hiring Cardinals field manager Tony La Russa to replace interim manager Pete Mackanin? Sure, it's in the cards, but does Castellini already have La Russa up his sleeve?

Even if he wanted, Castellini could not admit he already has talked to La Russa. That would be tampering, as La Russa remains under contract with the Cardinals through this year.

But Castellini and La Russa are more than just friends. They go way back, Castellini having hired La Russa to manage the Cardinals in 1996 when Castellini was part owner of that team.

Castellini's decision paid big dividends in St. Louis, as La Russa not only was named manager of the year for the seventh time in his career, but won the World Series in 2006, a division in 2005, a pennant in 2004, a division in 2002, playoff berth in 2001, and divisions in 2000 and 1996.

But the key here is that Castellini and La Russa are like kinfolk, nominal blood relations, figurative godbrothers -- a couple of Italian wise guys of Sicilian extraction whose burning desire to win and their knowledge of how to do it is their dominant commonality.

Novelist and screenwriter Vincent Patrick explained it best in the widely acclaimed book and motion picture "The Pope of Greenwich Village," wherein understanding, loyalty and devotion shared between two distantly related Italian cousins is like that between two Irish, inseparable identical twins.

Blood is thicker than water, and Castellini and La Russa are joined at the hip. The more things change the more they stay the same.

La Russa's contract is up this year. He needs a change of scenery. In a matter of months what already is virtually a done deal will be plain for all to see: La Russa is coming to Cincinnati not for the money, not to win the World Series, not to establish a new address. La Russa is coming to Cincinnati to be with his goombah.