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!
- 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?