Possible La Russa Replacements

Pop Warner

On Monday, I explained to you Why Tony La Russa Must Go. I strongly encourage you to look back and read it before you continue with the rest of this article.

I received tons of great feedback, and I think everybody is starting to realize that Tony cannot be the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011. He is simply hurting the team. Some of the decisions he has made this season are just ridiculous, and the funny thing is that I have always been a Tony La Russa supporter. Until a couple weeks ago, of course.

I urge you to click on the link above so you fully understand my feelings about this situation. The franchise can no longer afford for TLR to hurt this team. It’s been fun, but enough is enough, and it is time for the La Russa era to come to an end. The question I have gotten from several people following my piece on Monday is, “Who replaces Tony?”

The answer is not so simple considering many teams are going to be searching for a manager this offseason. If La Russa does not come back, the Cardinals will join the Cubs, Braves, Mariners, Diamondbacks, Marlins and Astros as teams that could be looking for a new skipper. Due to talent already on-hand, fan support, payroll, etc., one would think the St. Louis job is one of the top two positions available, along with Atlanta. Hopefully that means the Redbirds can sign one of the top managers available to take La Russa’s job. But who is included in that list? I wish I knew. But I’ll give you my list.

Bob Brenly, 57 years old, Cubs TV analyst
Even though he hasn’t managed in six years, Brenly has certainly had success as a MLB manager in the past. In four seasons managing the Arizona Diamondbacks, he led the team to a 303-262 (.536) record, two division titles, and a World Series Championship. Brenly is big into playing the game the “right” way and could be a great choice if management wants to go with somebody a little more seasoned and experienced.

Joey Cora, 45, White Sox bench coach
Nobody outside of Chicago is very familiar with this one, but there is no doubt that he will be a manager in 2011. Cora is in his eighth season as a White Sox coach. He has become famous in the past couple days as being Manny Ramirez’s “interpreter” (even though Man-Ram speaks fluent English). Cora managed Chicago’s Venezuelan Winter League team to a 31-31 record. He was also part of the 2005 World Series club.

Fredi Gonzalez, 47, unemployed
Gonzalez was one of several managers fired this season, but I highly doubt he’ll be without a job for long. However, if the Cardinals are hoping to get him, I hope they don’t lose too much sleep when the Braves move in on him. They think very highly of him, and will probably succeed Bobby Cox. Gonzalez has spent the past four years managing the Marlins. He compiled a 276-279 (.497) record but was the Sporting News Manager of the Year in 2008.

Jose Oquendo, 47, Cardinals 3B coach
If the Cardinals plan on hiring from within, Oquendo will definitely be one of two guys they consider (I’ll get to the second later in this post). He’s been coaching in the Majors for 12 years, but also has managing experience in the Cardinals Minor League system and as Puerto Rico’s manager in the World Baseball Classic.

Ryne Sandberg, 51, Cubs Triple-A Manager
Wouldn’t this be something? Sandberg has no MLB managing or coaching experience, but has been groomed to be the Cubs manager when Lou Pineilla retires. Now that he has retired, oddly enough, something tells me Sandberg will not make it to the Majors. Going to St. Louis would be the ultimate betrayal, but what if the Cubs pass on him? Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but maybe the Hall of Famer will consider the Cards.

Bobby Valentine, 60, ESPN baseball analyst
Even though he hasn’t managed in eight years, Valentine will probably be high on more than one MLB team’s list of potential replacements just from the success that Valentine has had. The only thing that scares me about this one is that he kind of reminds me of La Russa. Valentine has a very stubborn coaching style, and I can’t think of a better way to describe TLR. As a 15-year manager in the big leagues, Valentine has gone 1,117-1,072 (.510) while winning one National League pennant with the Mets. He even managed a very successful team in Japan for six seasons.

Ron “Pop” Warner, 41, Cardinals Double-A Manager
I saved the best for last. Believe it or not, ladies and gentlemen, this is who I want to be the next manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. He is, without a doubt in my mind, one of the most underrated Minor League coaches in baseball. Sadly, most Cardinal fans hardly know him. Luckily for those who are a little unfamiliar with him, I’ve got your back. Pop Warner has been the manager of the Springfield Cardinals since 2006, and was the Palm Beach manager in 2005 and 2006. In his first season as a professional manager, Warner led the Single-A Cardinals to the team’s first ever playoff and Championship series appearance. In 2008, Warner finished the season at Springfield with 78 wins, which is still a franchise record. He’s young, and if management wants to go with a younger, newer presence, he better be at the top of the list. Pop has been at the helm both in AA and AAA for more than five seasons now and has a combined record of 438-387 (.531), but it is the way he coaches that I have fallen in love with. He’s a no-nonsense manager who focuses on player development. Warner’s also a stickler for consistency and fundamentals. 24 of Warner’s Springfield players have gone on to play in the Majors. He may find himself there one day, and it could be very soon.

Justin Hulsey covers the Cardinals for i70baseball and his blogs, Cardinals Front Office and Rising Redbirds, that are also dedicated to Cardinals baseball and their minor league system.You may follow him on Twitter @JayHulsey by clicking here

14 thoughts on “Possible La Russa Replacements

    1. Thanks for the comment, Frank.

      I didn’t even think of Oberkfell, but that is an interesting suggestion. He certainly seems to know what he’s doing.

  1. If ATL doesn’t hire Pendleton, he becomes everyone’s top choice still looking for a manager.
    I’ll take one more year of TLR if they agree to groom Matheny next year to take the helm in 2012.

    1. Matheny was another guy that I had thought about. I’ve always heard he could be a manager at some point, but he has no experience. Like you said, he’d have to be groomed for a couple years. He needs to get his feet wet in the Minors first.

  2. Give Pop a chance, he deserves it.

    With a youth movement in St. Louis, why not give the reigns to the guy that shows the ability to work with the youth?

    Just my two cents.

    1. I totally agree, Bill. Hiring from within would be easier, cheaper, and is likely the better route to take in the long run. You were the one that introduced me to Warner when you mentioned him a couple months ago. There’s nothing not to like about the guy. It’s time to give him a shot.

  3. Pop Warner would be great given the money going to keeps few big name players, the Cards will need someone who can work with young talent.

    Ryno’s an interesting choice but I can see him being an OK coach in StL for a few years and then going to Chicago & being a really good coach. Plus, I think he’s too vested in the Cubs organization to leave.

  4. Warner a great idea. However, the Cardinals are too steeped in tradition and will probably hire a “known” quantity. I watched Sandberg for two years manage Class A ball in Peoria and he doesn’t have good temperment, esp w/umpires. Pendleton is a good choice. Waht about Ted Simmons or Andy VanSlyke both w/experience.
    Lastly, I believe TLR is coming back. He has liked what he has seen from some of the youngsters.

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