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.