La Russa closeup

So who replaces La Russa?

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Wanted: Baseball manager.  Will replace legend. There is no way you can possibly top what happened last year. Possibility you won’t have the best player on the team next year.  Must have reliable transportation.

So who bites at that?

On the one hand, replacing Tony La Russa might be a tough thing for a guy to do.  There is nowhere to go but down and, given that this was the classic “play blah baseball all year but get hot at the right time” kind of team, there’s a non-trivial chance that they will go down.  Add in the fact that, at the moment, it’s unclear if Albert Pujols is coming back, and you might have to wonder who is crazy enough to take the gig.

On the other hand, if Albert Pujols does come back — and given that Adam Wainwright should be healthy to start the season — it could be the best possible job imaginable.  St. Louis loves the Cardinals. They’ve shown that they’ll stick with a manager for a long time, even before La Russa.  With Prince Fielder likely leaving the division in free agency there isn’t an obvious mega-team to contend with.  Sweet gig!

Potential candidates/non-candidates:

  • Terry Francona: He’s looking for work. If Pujols comes back this is a win-now team and Francona has helmed a win-now team for the majority of the past decade. Same kind of gig, lower pressure, less clubhouse noise;
  • Dave Duncan: Duncan has never expressed interest in a top job and the list of pitching coaches who became good managers is pretty damn short. Like, Roger Craig and no one else, at least recently. Duncan and La Russa have always been a package deal anyway. It just doesn’t seem like the job would make a ton of sense either for him or for the Cardinals;
  • Mark McGwire: He’s in-house too, but he has zero managing experience and only two years coaching experience. How a team like the Cardinals could go from The Genius to The Novice so quickly is beyond me. And that’s before you realize that it would just lead to another winter of rehashing the old ‘roids questions.
  • Jose Oquendo: My early favorite, not based on any inside knowledge, but based on the fact that he’s Jose Oquendo and was one of my favorite players when I was a kid.  More seriously, he’s been with La Russa for a loooong time now, coaches third base and has, by all reports, been groomed by La Russa for a managing job someday, be it in St. Louis or elsewhere.
  • Terry Pendleton: The Braves first base coach and former hitting coach who, obviously, had a lot of time in St. Louis. He’s always been tremendously popular with Braves players since he began coaching and could be a good choice if the Cards are looking to keep a happy team happy.  Worth noting also that, when he was removed as the Braves hitting coach, the Braves hitting went into the toilet. The man obviously has some skills.

Many more names will spin out of this, but those are who I got at the moment.  Who do you like? I mean besides Whitey Herzog?

Joe Panik says he’s “100 percent” recovered from back injury

San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik follows through on a single off Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Scott Oberg in the eighth inning of Game 1 of a baseball doubleheader Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Denver. The Giants won 10-8. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Giants second baseman Joe Panik missed nearly all of August and September last season due to a nagging back injury, but he told Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com on Friday that he’s feeling “100 percent.”

Panik, who earned his first All-Star selection last season, originally landed on the disabled list in early August due to what was described as lower back inflammation. He made his return in September, but appeared in just three games before being shut down. The good news is that he was cleared by doctors in mid-December and considers himself “back to normal.”

“It was right around the time of all the signings,” he said, smiling. “I was able to fly under the radar. I got tested and everything had healed up. I got cleared and was able to have my full offseason workouts. I’m good to go. I’m happy to be feeling good and going back out on the field to show that I’m healthy. My swing feels strong.”

Panik altered his offseason workout routine and plans to spend less time in his spikes in the early part of spring training. The hope is that these changes will prevent future issues.

After a strong showing as a rookie in 2014, the 25-year-old Panik proved to be one of the best second baseman in the majors last season by batting .312/.378/.455 with eight home runs and 37 RBI over 100 games while playing solid defense.

Baseball America names Corey Seager as baseball’s top prospect

Los Angeles Dodgers' Corey Seager follows through a single that scored Austin Barnes, in front of Colorado Rockies' Wilin Rosario during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
AP Photo/Danny Moloshok
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Baseball America unveiled their top 100 prospect list Friday night during a special on MLB Network. It should come as no surprise that Dodgers infielder Corey Seager came in at No. 1.

This makes Seager the consensus top prospect in the game. He was also ranked first by MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus, and ESPN’s Keith Law. Twins outfielder Byron Buxton was ranked second on all four lists.

Baseball America has the most aggressive ranking of Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada from the Red Sox, who checked in at No. 3. He was followed by pitching prospects Lucas Giolito from the Nationals and Julio Urias from the Dodgers to round out the top five.

You can see Baseball America’s full top 100 list here.

Jenrry Mejia: “It is not like they say. I am sure that I did not use anything.”

New York Mets' Jenrry Mejia reacts after getting the last out against the Milwaukee Brewers during the ninth inning of a baseball game Friday, July 25, 2014, in Milwaukee. The Mets won 3-2. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps
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Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia was permanently suspended on Friday after testing positive for a third time for a performance-enhancing drug. The right-hander is maintaining his innocence, as ESPN’s Adam Rubin notes in quoting Dominican sports journalist Hector Gomez. Mejia said, “It is not like they say. I am sure that I did not use anything.”

Mejia has the opportunity to petition commissioner Rob Manfred in one year for reinstatement to Major League Baseball. However, he must sit out at least two years before becoming eligible to pitch in the majors again, which would mean Mejia would be 28 years old.

Over parts of five seasons, Mejia has a career 3.68 ERA with 162 strikeouts and 76 walks over 183 1/3 innings. He was once a top prospect in the Mets’ minor league system and a top-100 overall prospect heading into the 2010 and ’11 seasons.

Bryce Harper on potential $400 million contract: “Don’t sell me short.”

Bryce Harper
AP Photo/Nick Wass
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Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is at least three years away from free agency, but people are already contemplating just how large a contract the phenom will be able to negotiate, especially after taking home the National League Most Valuable Player Award for his performance this past season.

When the likes of David Price and Zack Greinke are signing for over $200 million at the age of 30 or older, it stands to reason that Harper could draw more as a 26-year-old if he can maintain MVP-esque levels of production over the next several seasons. $400 million might not be enough for Harper, though, as MLB.com’s Jamal Collier reports. He said, “Don’t sell me short,” which is a fantastic response.

During the 2015 season, Harper led the majors with a .460 on-base percentage and a .649 slugging percentage while leading the National League with 42 home runs and 118 runs scored. He also knocked in 99 runs for good measure. Harper and Ted Williams are the only hitters in baseball history to put up an adjusted OPS of 195 or better (100 is average) at the age of 22 or younger.