Tag Archives: Mike Matheny

2012 Preview: Catcher

From Opening Day 2011 to Opening Day 2012, there are only two positions that we know will be the same, Yadier Molina at catcher and Matt Holliday in left field. Of course, saying that I’ve probably doomed them both to disastrous spring training injuries. (knock on wood)

For the 29-year-old Molina, 2011 was a big year. He led the Cardinals in batting average with his .305. For all intents, he had a career year. He set career highs in batting average (.305), slugging percentage (.465), runs (55), hits (145), doubles (32), home runs (14), and RBI (65) among others. He won his fourth consecutive Gold Glove and made his third consecutive All Star Game appearance. Picking up his $7 million option for 2012 was a no brainer for Cardinals management.

In my mind, Molina might be one of the most interesting players to watch this season. He is coming off a career year where he hit nearly double the home runs of his previous career high. Not only did he have home run power, he had gap power, notching 32 doubles as well, up from the 19 doubles he hit in 2010. For a man who is considered as slow as he is, that’s a high number, second on the Cardinals only to the other steady starter, Matt Holliday. That shows some potential that 2011 may end up being more than just a statistical fluke.

Another reason that I find Molina’s 2012 to be interesting is that his best friend on the team, Albert Pujols, has skipped town on his way to Anaheim to play for the Angels to the tune of $240 million over 10 years. How will he react after spending the previous 8 years of his career in Pujols’ shadow, will he step into the waiting spotlight or will he shy away from it?

You also have his impending contract situation, which I’ll address a little later.

Because of Molina’s defensive prowess and game calling reputation, any offense you get from the catcher position while he’s playing is a definite plus. It also means he logs a lot of innings behind the plate, 1150 innings in total last year across 137 games. Despite the fact that he logged 12 more innings in 2 more games than he did in 2010, he was used quite less than he had in previous years this season. If you remember, he was shut down for the final couple weeks of the season with knee issues at the end of 2010.

Despite those problems, Molina has been steady as a rock behind the plate for the Cardinals, notching over 1,000 innings behind the plate in 5 of the last 6 seasons. If the Cardinals are playing baseball, over the last 7 years the odds were pretty good that he was behind the plate as he’s proven himself exceptionally durable thus far.

For the Cardinals in 2012, there is no doubt that Yadier Molina goes in as the incumbent starter. The game is on, however, for the backup catcher role in 2012. Once held down by Jason LaRue and last year by Gerald Laird, the Cardinals under new manager Mike Matheny (to whom Molina was once a backup to) will be having an open competition for the roster spot. The guys who will be matched up in that battle will be Tony Cruz, Bryan Anderson, and free agent signee Koyie Hill.

Tony Cruz, 25, broke out when he got a chance to be the Cardinals backup catcher when Laird went down with a broken finger in May. While Laird was on the disabled list from May 23rd to July 5th, Cruz hit .278 with a .333 OBP over 18 games, 6 of which were starts behind the plate. His versatility was also used by the Cardinals as he made appearances during that time at third base and first base. Until 2009, Cruz had played primarily third base through the minor leagues, notching 130 games there before transitioning to catcher.

Bryan Anderson, 25, has toiled away in the Cardinals minor leagues since being drafted out of Arkansas in the 4th round of the 2005 draft. Since that time he’s played 593 games in the minor leagues and just 15 in St. Louis in 2010. Anderson has been the question mark since he was drafted. Before the 2008 season he was rated the #85 prospect in baseball by Baseball America, and that was after a fairly lackluster year in double-A Springfield. The power that many scouts talked about never developed in the minor leagues and he got off to an ice cold start in Memphis in 2011 while splitting time with Tony Cruz. However, once Cruz made the trip to St. Louis, Anderson regained his stroke and finished up the year with a hitting line of .281/.357/.409.

Despite having gained the approval of new manager Mike Matheny in previous years, which might gain him some favor in the battle for backup catcher, there are still pitchers on the Cardinals’ roster, namely Chris Carpenter and I’ve recently heard Kyle Lohse, who don’t like the way he handles things when he’s behind the plate. That could have a huge impact on the battle if you have two starters in your rotation who don’t like pitching to a particular catcher. However, you could jump him around the rotation to avoid him. He’s worked with Jaime Garcia before when they both played in the minor leagues together and because of his time there, he has caught most of the guys in the bullpen.

Regardless of what happens, Anderson might be happier that this could be his final season with the Cardinals’ organization. Despite solid performances, Anderson has topped out in Memphis the last four years and his trade value is virtually nil. But he now has 6 years of minor league service time, which means he’s a free agent after one more. The Cardinals do still hold one more option on him, so he can be sent back to Memphis without risk of losing him.

The Cardinals also surprised fans by bringing in veteran catcher Koyie Hill, seemingly against their previous statements of letting Anderson and Cruz fight it out for the spot. Hill has spent the last five years with the Cubs and hit .194/.268/.276 with 2 home runs last year in 46 games for the Cubs. He’s never been exceptionally notable at the plate, nor even behind it with a career -0.7 defensive WAR. The move doesn’t really make sense except as a veteran catching option should Molina go down with injury. He would be an exceptionally long shot, but you never know what might happen.

So who do I think will win the backup catcher job in St. Louis. Honestly, I feel it should be Bryan Anderson and just not because I’ve been very high on Anderson the last few years and hate that he hasn’t gotten an opportunity somewhere. The Cardinals will need to figure out where they are going with the catcher’s position beyond this year. Molina is in the option year of his contract and is very likely to command a near $10 million salary in this next deal.

Between the catchers that the Cardinals currently have in the organization, I see Tony Cruz with more of a long-term future with the team than Anderson does. Therefore, I think it’d be better for Cruz’s development to be playing everyday in Memphis than playing once a week in St. Louis. Anderson might get the role simply because Cruz has more of a future with the organization. It wouldn’t be the first time the Cardinals have done something like this. And if Carpenter and Lohse don’t like throwing to Anderson, you have three other starting pitchers who you can pair him with. Or tell them to suck it up.

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Cardinals add Carlos Beltran

Is it Christmas come early for Cardinals fans? John Mozeliak delivered a two-year, $26 million contract for outfielder Carlos Beltran on Thursday night. The deal was announced by the team as pending a physical. The deal also includes a full no trade clause, likely a concessions for a two year deal instead of a three year contract like Michael Cuddyer and Josh Willingham both received.

Beltran has been in high demand since the Winter Meetings in Dallas. He reportedly received offers from the Cardinals, Blue Jays, Indians, Red Sox, and the Rockies kicked the tires before signing Cuddyer. According to a few baseball writers, the Cardinals kicked their negotiations into high gear on Wednesday.

Beltran, 34, has great potential to be an asset to the Cardinals. In 142 games last year between the Mets and the Giants, Beltran hit .300 with a .385 OBP, and a .525 SLG. On top of that, he added 22 home runs and 39 doubles. If you look at his 152 OPS+, which factors in park and league factors, it was the best season of his career.

However, he did spend a short time on the 15 day DL last season and has missed significant time in 2009 and 2010. That leads to my biggest concern, his durability. The Cardinals have gambled $19 million ($13 for Beltran, $7 for Rafael Furcal) in each of the next two seasons on these guys being healthy, but both have been injury prone. Add on to that, that Beltran is coming off of arguably his best season at the age of 34, the odds of him repeating or getting close to those numbers again are very slim.

How exactly Beltran figures to be used by the Cardinals is the big question. Will he get most of his playing time in right field, displacing or Allen Craig? Or will he get an opportunity to prove himself in center field and displace Jon Jay? With Craig’s recent knee surgery, he will be missing time this season, so the opening day outfield will likely be Holliday-Jay-Beltran.

Another question is where will he hit in the lineup. He could realistically end up anywhere between 2 and 5 in the Cardinals lineup depending on how new manager Mike Matheny puts his lineups together.

Additionally, I hate blocking Craig like they are. There is the potential that he can slide to first base (or left field with Holliday making the move to first) in 2013, but to me, Allen Craig’s 2011 season deserved a larger role this season and he won’t get it. I can’t see Beltran playing center field regularly enough for it and when Beltran is the second highest paid player on your baseball team, you can’t justify sitting him very often. An outfielder signing this season needed to be nothing more than a band-aid. You don’t wear a band-aid for two years, you only wear it as long as you need it.

If Beltran remains healthy, if Beltran remains productive, if Beltran can still occasionally play center field, then this is a good deal for the Cardinals. But it’s too many “if”s for me to feel comfortable with the move.

Now, let’s take odds on how long it takes for Adam Wainwright to come up behind Beltran and ask him if he’s swung yet.

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UCB Roundtable

I asked my question earlier this week and should have posted it Tuesday, but I was busy trying to wrap up the necessary work I needed to do in order to make sure I can walk in graduation on Sunday. It’s been a long 8 and a half years trying to cram four years of school work into it. Finally almost ready to call it complete.

If you’re wondering what the UCB Roundtable is, it’s when us UCB writers kick around a question via our Google Group for a day. Each day a different writer poses the question and the rest of us answer and discuss it. It’s been going on for quite some time, if you want to see the cumulative post on the UCB site, here it is.

Anyway, my question for the day was: If you are the Cardinals’ GM, considering where we’re at financially and strategically, what free agent would you pursue to add to the team and why?

Here’s how it went.

Daniel Shoptaw, C70 at the Bat:

The more I read about it, the more Carlos Beltran just makes sense, at least on a limited contract. Not sure if he’d do a one-year deal or not, but that’d be ideal. Beltran can (at least in theory) play center and also right, covers us while Allen Craig is out plus gives us some insurance in case Jon Jay slumps. His bat was stronger in the second half than in the first last year as he continued to get healthy. Switch-hitting helps the flexibility and it makes for fewer decisions for Mike Matheny. All in all, it seems like a perfect fit to me.

Daniel Solzman, Redbird Rants:

At the current moment, I would go after Carlos Beltran but not for a long term deal. At his age, I would ask if he would even be willing to play right field even if he would prefer CF. At the same time, I would want to figure out a way to keep Allen Craig’s bat in the lineup once he fully recovers.

I’m assuming Skip Schumaker comes back and likely plays almost every day at second base.

I know Rob Rains brought up the idea of Derrick Lee to play first but that makes no sense as we would be platooning someone in the OF, which I thought was the reason as to why Rasmus was traded (along with his attitude).

Don’t get me wrong though… I’d love to see Rick Ankiel or Ryan Ludwick back but at the right price.

Ray DeRousse, Stlcardinalbaseball.com:

If I’m the GM, the only big thing we pursue is a lefthanded reliever, which we’d obtain through a trade given the dearth of lefties on the market.

The only other deal I’d like to make is nabbing Ryan Ludwick on the cheap to shore up our outfield depth and platoon with Jon Jay.

Mark Tomasik, Retrosimba.com:

I’ve pursue the best available left-handed reliever and best available starting pitcher. Cardinals need a proven left-handed reliever who is effective against left-handed batters in late-inning situations. I believe Cardinals need more starting pitching in case of an injury to one of the five in the rotation or in case a Kyle Lohse or Jake Westbrook is ineffective.

Bill Ivie, I-70 Baseball:

We’ve been discussing a bit on Twitter this morning and i will say, four names jump out at me:

Nate McLouth
Ryan Ludwick
Rick Ankiel
Carlos Beltran

I believe this team would be best served by adding a sure outfielder on a short term deal while the younguns are learning a bit. Ankiel and Ludwick are more “bench bats” and extra outfielder types at this point. McLouth is an interesting “does he really have much to offer” and Beltran jumps off the page at me.

Beltran has a good chance to be 2012′s Lance Berkman. A short term, one or two year deal, that is not financially crippling but allows the team to grab some upside while he proves he is healthy and sets himself up for one more decent payday.

An Opening Day outfield of Holliday/Jay/Beltran that eventually becomes Holliday/Beltran/Craig would be a satisfying lineup to me. Install Daniel Descalso at 2nd and off we go.

Chris Mallonee, Birds on the Bat:

I like all the names Bill threw out except for Ankiel. Maybe that’s just a personal bias, but I feel like he had one great September and has been replacement level or just above since. But I think the Cardinals need to be smart and not try to make a “big splash” post Albert. Get a decent/good bat to absorb some AB’s and provide bench help until Craig gets back.

I think the Cardinals need to keep the flexibility they just gained from Pujols and wait for the big bat via trade or 2013 free agency. Inevitably there will be a spring training or early season injury or non-performing player (see 2011) and the team will need to have flexibility to meet needs that pop up early in the year.

Tom Knuppel, CardinalsGM:

McLouth signed with the Pirates already.

I like Ludwick as a cheap replacement if at all possible. No on Ankiel and I would take Beltran for no more than 2 years.

JE Powell, STL: Fear the Red:

I have to agree with the rest of my fellow bloggers on this one. I think Carlos Beltran is probably the best choice as long as it’s short term. If he can bat .280/20-25/80-85 I think he would be a good bat to have in the line-up. A near-full season of Allen Craig (assuming he can come back from the knee surgery with no lingering effects) and Beltran in the line-up would be a good outfield and I think would be a good replacement bat-wise for He Who Shall Not Be Named (and I don’t mean that snake guy from Harry Potter).

Malcom Pierce, The Redbird Menace:

I won’t break any new ground with my reply. Beltran’s the best option available. He can take over in RF and provide another quality bat to help fill the Pujols-sized hole in the lineup. And it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to see how well he can still handle CF, either.

Anything more than two years is a risk for a guy with his injury history and age, but I wouldn’t mind overpaying in a short-term contract. I’m not sure what else we can do with the money in the current market.

As an aside, I nearly hit my head on the keyboard today when Bernie Miklasz suggested that the Cardinals wouldn’t necessarily promise Beltran a starting job in the OF because of Craig and Jay. Carlos Beltran had a higher OPS than Albert Pujols last year. 219 somewhat overachieving plate appearances from Allen Craig shouldn’t even be a consideration when signing Beltran who, when healthy, is still one of the best hitters in the game.

Matt Philip, Fungoes:

Certainly Beltran makes sense, even if he is currently polling at Fungoes as the Cardinals’ #1 late-season public enemy!

Even playing only 142 games last year, Beltran gained 4.7 WAR (Albert Pujols has 5.1). Fangraphs’ fans project him to be worth at least three wins next year, and that’s estimated at a mere 124 games (that’s more than Jon Jay earned in just about as many plate appearances). He would not be an option to play centerfield, given that he’s only slightly better than Lance Berkman in right field. But he would indeed be the answer to what to do in Craig’s absense and may afford another second-base experiment by Craig when he returns.

If you’re looking for a cheaper option, Michael Cuddyer and Josh Willingham would be better fits. The Cardinals should avoid at all costs Ludwick and Ankiel, both of whom may give some fans some warm feelings, but neither of whom projects to be much more than a replacement-level player (Ludwick had 0.3 WAR last year, Ankiel 1.4)

Bill Ivie, I-70 Baseball:

If I may (and this is not aimed at Pip, just in general), why do we insist that players do not deserve a look based on their stats LAST year?

In 2010, Lance Berkman had a -0.2 WAR, in 2011 for the Cardinals (who took a chance on the guy based on past performance) Berkman posted a 5.2 WAR (that’s 0.2 less than the second coming that just went to Hollywood last season). Albert posted a 5.4 last season, by far the worst of his career, but got a very lucrative contract.

Stats are nie, they tell us how a player performed in the past. Why do we assume they can tell us how a player will perform in the future. If that was the case, we could never say anything about a “chance of scenery.”

Matt Philip, Fungoes:

That’s a good and fair point bill. To give a better shake to Ankiel and Ludwick, both of whom I wrote off using the small-sample size of last year’s stats. I’ll apply a 3-2-1 assessment (weighting last year at 3, two years ago double and three years ago as one).

Beltran: 3.1 average
Ludwick: 1.2
Ankiel: 1.0

Bill Ivie, I-70 Baseball:

Which, if I’m doing the math correctly, Jon Jay and Ludwick are fairly even? Might not be a bad, low cost pickup for a bench bat.

Matt Philip, Fungoes:

I’d put Jay well above Ludwick. Jay has had WARs of 1.4 (in a half season), 2.8 and projects for 2.6 next year.

Malcolm Pierce, The Redbird Menace:

You’re totally right about that Bill. “Last season” stats are sometimes given way too much weight. See especially: the contract Seattle gave Chone Figgins. I only compared Pujols and Beltran last year to ridicule the thought that Beltran should be a part time player anywhere. He’s not a better hitter than Pujols but I think he’s a starter on any team in the majors. Cards fans should be thrilled to see him replace Jay or Craig in the projected lineup as long as the contract is reasonable.

Bob Netherton, On the Outside Corner:

I take the contrarian side of this discussion, not because of the first part of what you said (I do agree with that), but the reasonableness of his contract. Isn’t Scott Boras his agent?

I don’t want to see Beltran for 3 or 4 years in St. Louis and I don’t think he’s worth Lance Berkman money. We’ve already overpaid for Furcal (which I’m OK with), just don’t want to see us force a “name” on the roster. I don’t see him as an upgrade over Craig offensively, and defensively, I don’t think he’s an upgrade over Jay.

Save the money that the Beltran contract will require and pick up somebody of impact at the trade deadline, when more is known.

Pass on Beltran, find another lefty for the bullpen and then let’s get ready for Spring Training.

Bill Ivie, I-70 Baseball:

For what it’s worth, Beltran is represented by Lozano…let that one simmer for a few minutes.

Bob Netherton, On the Outside Corner:

Oh, goodness. That’s right, he switched agents heading into this free agency season. Wow, that would be… awkward.

And what is my take?

First off, I think Carlos Beltran is the absolute wrong fit for the Cardinals. He can’t play center field every day anymore. How do I know this? There doesn’t seem to be a single team that is pursuing him to be a center fielder. Everyone wants him on a corner and he’s even simply average there now.

Second, My choice would be Ryan Ludwick. Ludwick’s best years came in St. Louis and he’s had a couple really bad ones in San Diego. His numbers perked up after his trade to Pittsburgh a little bit. I think he’d make an excellent choice when you’re looking for someone to play for a month and then take a spot on the bench. He’s right handed (which immediately makes him a better choice than a guy like Ankiel) and he can play all three outfield positions. And he’s far cheaper and might be looking for a good year to reclaim some value.

Third, If you were bring Carlos Beltran in to start over Craig in right field, you find yourself blocking Craig for someone whose bat is just as good, but for probably more than 25 times the money. He’s not going to come in here cheap for one year to prove his health. That’s pretty much what he did last year when he established he was still a capable player. Berkman was coming off a horrendous year .248/.368/.413. Beltran is not, .300/.385/.525.

And if you block Craig, you simply find yourself once again in the location of not knowing what he can do. You can’t ask for more out of a player than what he did last year. His 219 plate appearances, if he’d gotten 650 plate appearances at those levels were MVP caliber and he is on par with the best hitters in the National League. He has earned his opportunity to start. I think you can justify bringing Pujols back and sitting Craig behind Pujols and Berkman, but I don’t see how you can justify to Allen Craig bringing in a guy like Beltran on a multi-year deal. If you do that, Craig needs to be dealt and he’s a guy I’d much rather have on my team.

Cardinals set coaching staff

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting the Cardinals’ 2012 coaching staff has been set.

Just two days after introducing Mike Matheny as the organization’s newest manager after the retirement of Tony LaRussa, who had held the role for the last 16 seasons, the Cardinals have revealed their coaching staff.

The big news is that Dave Duncan and Mark McGwire will return to their positions as the team’s pitching and hitting coaches, respectively. Duncan will be entering his 17th season as the Cardinals’ pitching coach and the final year of his contract. McGwire will be entering his 3rd season as the Cardinals hitting coach. Under McGwire, the Cardinals led the National League in several offensive categories.

Derek Lilliquist will also be back in the bullpen as the team’s bullpen coach. No truth to the rumor that hearing aids were a requirement of his new contract.

In somewhat of a surprise, Jose Oquendo will return to the staff at his typical spot at third base. Oquendo was widely considered to be the manager-in-waiting in St. Louis and was the final interview for the manager’s seat. He was passed over for Matheny. My only concern is whether Oquendo buys in to Matheny as manager, which I’m assuming the organization would have checked on before announcing his return.

Mike Aldrete, who served as assistant hitting coach since 2008, will get a uniformed position as he takes over the role as bench coach from Joe Pettini. Aldrete was expected to be the leading candidate to take over the hitting coach position with the Oakland Athletics, but has apparently turned it down to return to the Cardinals.

Finally, Memphis Redbirds’ manager Chris Maloney will move up to the big league club to take over as the first base coach from Dave McKay. Maloney also interviewed for the Cardinals’ managing position. He has been involved with the Cardinals organization 20 seasons as a minor league manager. This is his first major league posting. Ron “Pop” Warner, who managed the Double-A Springfield Cardinals is expected to take over Maloney’s old position in Memphis.

According to the P-D, Pettini and McKay will be reassigned elsewhere in the organization.

Matheny named manager

After an interview process that lasted roughly a week, Mike Matheny stood in front of the cameras and was announced as the next manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.

It was a field of six candidates. Jose Oquendo, Chris Maloney, Ryne Sandberg, Joe McEwing, Terry Francona, and Matheny. According to the team, after each interview they ranked their board of potential candidates. After his interview, Matheny went to #1 and stayed there, despite his lack of experience.

Matheny, 41, has long been predicted by those around the game to make a good manager. He has recently served as an assistant to General Manager John Mozeliak and has been an instructor at spring training for the team as well. Since he retired at the end of the 2006 season due to concussion related problems, Matheny has been involved with the Cardinals organization, leading many to believe that he would one day be destined for the big chair. However, going into the interviews, he was likely the dark horse candidate that nobody gave a real shot to.

He will now be the youngest manager in the major leagues.

Matheny played five of his 13 year career with the Cardinals. He hit just .245 with a .304 OBP, but took home three of his four Gold Gloves while playing for the Cardinals. He was the catcher who tutored a young Yadier Molina before handing the starting job off to him in 2005. Molina has received four Gold Gloves of his own in the years since.

The management decision was rumored to have come down between Matheny and former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona. In my opinion, Francona was only going to be a manager for a few years before we had to find someone else. Both in Philadelphia and Boston his end came when he could no longer reach and motivate his players. Matheny has the potential to be a much more longterm manager than Francona would.

Ultimately, I think the move will be good for the Cardinals.

First and foremost, he is already familiar with the team and has the respect of the players in the locker room. The Cardinals players who are on Twitter, like Jon Jay, David Freese, and Daniel Descalso made sure to applaud their new manager and let us know they were excited to play for him because they like and respect him. Two important keys for a manager.

Secondly, Matheny has worked with John Mozeliak on the front office side. He likely buys into the same philosophy that Mozeliak does as far as building the roster. I felt that since Mozeliak took over as the team’s General Manager that he and Tony LaRussa were oft times at odds about how they wanted to build the roster and what they wanted out of it. Now Mozeliak has his guy in the manager’s seat and those conflicts will likely be limited. But now Mozeliak can’t blame shortcomings on that relationship (not that he did, at least, not publicly).

Thirdly, even though he is inexperienced at this particular job, he is likely to be surrounded by experienced coaches and has a sharp baseball mind. Dave Duncan is under contract for 2012 and is expected to return to the organization as pitching coach. He and Matheny would have worked closely together over the five seasons Matheny spent as the Cardinals’ starting catcher. He also has a good relationship with hitting coach Mark McGwire.

Something Matheny will hopefully remember is that this is a championship team and while you do want to make your mark and make it your coaching staff, some consistency will be good for the team. No need to reinvent the wheel. But I see the desire for him to make it his coaching staff rather than LaRussa’s coaching staff.

At the same time, he needs to be his own manager. Don’t try to emulate someone else’s managerial style, be yourself.

The big question will be how we judge his success. He is being handed a World Series Champion. Is anything less a disappointment?

We as fans need to be careful how high we set that bar for him. It is his first year and he’ll be learning on the job. At the end of the year, I want a team that was in contention until late September and I want to see how Matheny handles games. Does he under manager or over manage? My biggest complaint about his predecessor was that I felt LaRussa could over-manage a game like nobody else and as a result managed us out of some games. There is a fine line to walk and I understand it could take him some time to find the right touch.

In the end, it’s a positive move for the Cardinals to begin the post-LaRussa era.

Oh, and for fun, Arthur Rhodes, who pitched last season for the Cardinals is 333 days older than Matheny.

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Who will be the next Cards Manager?

The Cardinals have had the luxury for the last 16 years of knowing exactly who was managing their ball club. After 33 years of managing Tony La Russa is hanging it up and going out a winner. Its the perfect scenario…the Cardinals have known since August of his intentions and then the remarkable comeback in September and the amazing playoff run that takes 7 games in the World Series in front of close to 50K people in your home stadium. That how you draw it up in fantasy land.

With TLR retiring the Cardinals identified 6 candidates that range all over the board of attributes and experience. Ryne Sandberg and Joe McEwing are quickly shooting up the ranks of potentially being the next great rookie manager. Jose Oquendo is a dedicated Cardinal family member that was thought to be the heir apparent to TLR the last few years. Mike Matheny is well loved and respected by Cardinal Nation and has played an instrumental role as a Special Assistant to the Cardinals in recent years though he has never managed. Terry Francona is the big name that had coached the BoSox for the last 8 years but was relieved of his duties after an epic collapse down the stretch. Then a slew of reports came out about players drinking in the clubhouse while the game was going on and how Francona had lost his players. Last but not least is current Memphis Cardinals manager Chris Maloney who has spent 18 years as a minor league manager mostly with the Cardinal Organization. These 6 candidates tell you one thing about the search: The Cardinals do not have a specific profile for their next manager.

So who gets the tough task of run the reigning World Champion Cardinals in 2012?

My preference is to go with Sandberg with Matheny coming in a close second. I give Ryno the nod mainly for his approach to becoming a big league manager. After a Hall of Fame career he didn’t expect for someone to just give him a big league job…he earned it by working his way up through the minor league ranks. He dedicated himself to learning all the way from a special assistant role for the Cubs in Spring Training to managing in A, AA and AAA for the Cubs Organization before being passed up for his first big league managing position with Sweet Lou was out as the Cubs manager in 2011. Ryno decided to take his talents to the Phils Organization to manage their AAA affiliate. Sandberg has gained respect from his peers and front office personnel across MLB. He is known as a very well prepared skipper and has an aggressive managing style. He likes to force the issue, movement on the base paths and hit-and-run. He is a great mentor, leader and seems to gain the respect from the clubhouse which is extremely important.

I personally am a fan of Matheny as a manager in the big leagues some day and feel he has a lot of the same attributes as Sandberg…but it would be extremely risky to put a manager in place that has never managed the game at any level to prove he can do it day in and day out. That’s why I tend to lean toward Sandberg. Some in Cardinal Nation want to see Ryno as the Cards Manager just to stick it to the Cubs…I’m not in that camp. I think you pick the right manager for the situation that fits into the Organization. To me that is Ryne Sandberg.