Daily Archives: November 3, 2011

Cardinals begin manager search

Today was supposed to be the setup day as I began my post-season posting schedule on Friday, but consider this a special edition run. According to an article by Joe Strauss in today’s Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are beginning to interview their top rung of candidates for their open managerial position. So I decided I’d go ahead and just poach for fun. :)

According to the article there are less than 10 candidates on their short list of potential replacements for future Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa. The list includes some minor league managers, some major league managers, some coaches, even a former Cardinals player that many fans could see as a future manager somewhere, someday.

Cardinals’ fans who really wanted Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon will be disappointed to find that the Cardinals haven’t opted to ask for permission to talk to him. Personally, I’m not surprised because Maddon is viewed as one of the top managers in the game today. He takes a team who has very little money or fan support and somehow has crafted them into a playoff team three of the last four seasons and took them to the World Series in 2008.

As the hunt begins, I’ll go down the list of names that have been officially connected to the search, presented in no specific order:

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Jose Oquendo
Current Role: St. Louis Cardinals’ 3rd base coach

Jose Oquendo is for some reason the seeming most popular choice. On Derrick Goold’s Bird Land Facebook page, there is a poll about who should be the next manager of the Cardinals. For some reason, Oquendo is running away with it. Jose Oquendo has been viewed as the “heir apparent” to the managerial seat for the Cardinals, but I’ve never quite been able to understand why. Through his career he has interviewed for openings with the San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, and New York Mets. He was never in those franchise’s final list for some reason. I think that should be pretty telling, actually.

While he is a player beloved by Cardinals fans, I just don’t see him making a very good major league manager. I also feel that the candidate who becomes the next manager of the Cardinals should have managerial experience at some level. Beyond managing in a couple of World Baseball Classics, the grand total of Oquendo’s coaching experience is being ignored at third base. It’s a little thing, but if they don’t trust his decisions at third base on simple baserunning, why are they suddenly going to trust him in the bigger decisions? Just because his title changes?

I’ll pass on Oquendo.

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Terry Francona
Former Role: Boston Red Sox manager

Francona is getting a lot of love from Cardinals fans who are looking at the fact that he is one of two managers to win two World Series’ in the last 10 years, joining Tony La Russa. In fact, Bermie Miklasz made that argument in an article for the Post-Dispatch.  How quickly they forget four horrible years as the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Yet, when he showed up in Boston (inheriting a team that had lost the 2003 NLCS in 7 games the previous year, by the way) he won a World Series in his first season. The team typically had one of the top-3 payrolls in baseball throughout his tenure, something that he is very unlikely to have in St. Louis.

To me, Francona has too much baggage. The epic collapse at the end of the season combined with reports of players kicking back in the clubhouse during games are just too much for me. Yes, they might have been nothing, but it’s baggage that just adds to reasons why I don’t want him.

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Chris Maloney
Current Role: Memphis Redbirds’ (AAA-St. Louis) manager

Maloney would certainly be the promote from within story. He began his managing career in 1991 with the rookie level Johnson City Cardinals for the organization. He has consistently posted a winning record in his minor league career and has won two league championships, including most recently the 2009 Pacific Coast League Championship. He has spent 5 years as the manager of the Memphis Redbirds.

The big advantage for Maloney is that he already has a relationship and rapport with many of the young Cardinals’ players. I’m willing to bet, with his time in the organization, that nearly every Cardinals draftee on the major league roster has played for him at some point. It would be his first big league job, but I believe it would also be a solid move.

One of the big things for me is keeping some continuity with the major league coaches. The last thing the Cardinals need is to have a World Series Championship team return for 2012 with a completely new coaching staff. There will be adjustment time and perhaps a missed window of opportunity to add championship #12 to the banners in St. Louis.

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Ryne Sandberg
Current Role: Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs’ (AAA-Philadelphia) manager

Many fans know him from his days with the Chicago Cubs, on the wrong side of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry. However, can the Cubs’ loss once again be the Cardinals’ gain? Sandberg started at the bottom with the Cubs and managed his way up their organization before losing out to Mike Quade on the major league managerial job before the 2010 season. Spurned, Sandberg moved on to the Phillies organization to manage their AAA team.

The Cubs have informed Sandberg that they don’t intend to hire him to replace Quade this season, and the Cardinals have asked for permission to talk to him about coming to manage in St. Louis. Many believe that Sandberg will make a great manager someday. He was the 2010 Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year.

Sandberg has long said his ideal job would be managing the Chicago Cubs, where he starred as a player and became a Hall of Fame second baseman, but would he give up the love of Cubs’ fans to work for the Cardinals? That would be a big question for him to answer, and I personally think he is our best candidate right now.

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Joe McEwing
Current Role: Charlotte Knights (AAA-Chicago WS) manager

McEwing is known to Cardinals’ fans who saw him play two seasons for the big league club. In 1999, he hit .275 including a 25 game hitting streak and finished fifth in Rookie of the Year voting. However, he was dealt following that season to the Mets. He began his minor league coaching career in the minors with the Charlotte Knights, the White Sox AAA club, as their hitting coach. In 2009 he moved up the road to Winston-Salem, their A club, to manage the team. He spent last season managing for the Knights and is expected to be Robin Ventura’s new third base coach with the White Sox next season.

He should be another solid candidate and is certainly one of those players that St. Louis loved who had more scrap than skill. Better than Stubby Clapp and Bo Hart, though. I think McEwing would be a solid choice, not the best one, but a solid one.

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Mike Matheny
Current Role: None

Mike Matheny was the Cardinals’ catcher from 2000-2004 where he was the starting catcher and even helped tutor a young Yadier Molina in the ways of handling a pitching staff. He has spent the last few spring trainings working with the Cardinals pitchers and catchers as a special assistant, so he is familiar with the majority of players on the team.

Many believe that Matheny should make a good major league manager, and if not a manager, a pitching coach. I certainly don’t disagree, but his lack of experience in any of those roles certainly makes me question if he’s the right choice for the Cardinals right now. I wouldn’t complain with the pick, but lack of experience would be a concern. However, the majority of the Cardinals’ coaching staff would likely stay in their roles if Matheny were to join the team, so he would be surrounded by experience and if he’s willing to make use of that experience he could be allright.

* * *

That’s a look at the top names that seem to be on the list as the future manager of the Cardinals. If I had to order how I would hire people,

1. Sandberg
2. Maloney
3. McEwing
4. Matheny
5. Oquendo
6. Francona

It will certainly be interesting to see what happens. The Cardinals hope to name their manager before the annual General Managers’ Meetings on November 14th, but say that they should have something by Thanksgiving. Whoever gets the job will be inheriting a team that should be expected to repeat as World Series Champions. That’s high pressure right there.