Posted by JE Powell
Days after the St. Louis Cardinals won the 2011 World Series, their manager, Tony LaRussa, retired from managing and definitely left the Cardinals in a better position than he found them.
However, because La Russa has retired the Cardinals now find them looking for a replacement. According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, there are six current candidates and the John Mozeliak, GM of the Cardinals, hopes to have chosen a successor for La Russa within 10 days of Thursday, November 3rd, the first day of interviews. The candidates are:
- Chris Maloney, manager of the Triple A Memphis Redbirds
- Mike Matheny, former Cardinals catcher
- Joe McEwing, former Cardinalls’ utility man and current bench coach for the Chicago White Sox
- Terry Francona, former manager of the Boston Red Sox
- Ryne Sandberg, Hall of Fame 2nd baseman and current manager of a minor league Phillies affiliate
- Jose Oquendo, 3rd base coach of the the St. Louis Cardinals
I honestly do not see Maloney, Matheny, or McEwing getting the job. From all the talk, I seems like there are three main candidates: Francona, Oquendo, and Sandberg. I am going to take a look at each candidate and see what each would bring to the table.
Francona has experience with winning teams. He has lead the Boston Red Sox to two World Series Championships (and has an 8-0 record in World Series games, I do believe), so he has experience dealing with high pressure situations. Remember, he also lead the Red Sox to beating the Yankees when the Sox were down 3-0.
The downside to Francona is that there is a chance that he could hire his own staff, which would mean losing Dave Duncan, Mark McGwire, Jose Oquendo, and Dave McKay. Duncan is one of the best pitching coaches in all of baseball and Mark McGwire turned the Cards into the best offensive team in the National League. Oquendo and McKay are pretty good 3rd and 1st base coaches, respectively, and have been with the team a long time.
Sandberg is an intriguing choice. He doesn’t have any Major League experience, but he has a very vast knowledge of the game and I think will be able to increase the small ball part of the Cards offense. Sandberg may also be more likely to try to move runners with steals, something that wasn’t a very big part of La Russa’s tactics. Sandberg is a Hall of Famer and I think would have the respect of the current roster. He may even be a little more receptive to younger players.
The negatives to Sandberg are that he was a former Cub player, so he really doesn’t understand how to win. OK, that was a joke, but kind of true, too. As a rookie manager, I think Sandberg would likely keep the current staff and the experience of the aforementioned Duncan, McGwire, Oquendo, and McKay would greatly aide Sandberg as he tries to learn on the job. However, not having any Major League experience could be an issue for a manager inheriting a team just off of a championship and a team capable of repeating next season.
If David Eckstein is correct, then Oquendo could be the key to keeping Albert Pujols. One thing that Oquendo brings to the table is experience on the field. He has played ever position, so he would be able to identify with all of the players, to some degree. Not to mention that he has been a staple on the team for quite some time and from all accounts has a good relationship with the players. Part of me wants to say, “if Pujols will stay because Oquendo is manager THEN MAKE HIM THE MANAGER!” But, then my logical side kicks in and I realize that John Mozeliak has earned our trust and he will sign the best candidate and I am sure will take the Pujols situation into account.
Oquendo has two negatives as I see it. The first, like Sandberg, is inexperience. He has served under La Russa for some time, but has very little in game management. In Sandberg’s case, however, he has at least managed a Triple A team. Secondly, I feel that some of the 3rd base calls Oquendo has made over the years have not been the best choices. I wonder if that would translate over to calls from the dugout. Maybe I am not being fair, but it’s still a concern for me.
It is certainly possible that another candidate could emerge or that Maloney, Matheny, or McEwing could get the job, but I would be OK with Francona, Sandberg, or Oquendo. I kind of feel like Francona is the leading candidate, though at the time of this writing, I do not think Francona has been interviewed and I have heard that the Cubs are trying to woo him.
Whoever John Mozeliak decides to hire will be coming into one of the best managerial jobs in baseball. The Cards are fresh off a championship, Adam Wainwright will be coming back, the starting rotation should be pretty strong, and the offense was the best in the National League next year. Not to mention there are some young players with a bright future that are or will be coming up in the next year or two. As long as the right guy is hired, I think the Cards will be in good shape next year. But whoever the manager is, he will have a tough, Hall of Fame, act to follow.