While We Were Away

Welcome back, everybody. After a week and a half of pausing our normal coverage to bring you a special series on the 25th Anniversary of the I-70 World Series, we return to “business as usual” here at the site. Low and behold, while we put everything on hold to bring you some great coverage on the 1985 World Series that gave this very website its name, the Cardinals went and started down the checklist of things that they needed to accomplish prior to Spring Training 2011.

While there will be player personnel changes that will be addressed, trades that are becoming the source of most rumors, and prospects that will realize that they have a legitimate chance to crack the roster, the most important decision that had to be handled first was the decision of who would lead this team. The coaching staff of the Cardinals was addressed over this last week and, in case you missed it, here is the basic rundown of the changes:

Tony LaRussa will return as manager.
The single most debated move of the off-season took place before fans even knew who the participants would be in this year’s World Series. Many fans and experts alike predicted the end of LaRussa’s tenure as manager for the club after the conclusion of his 15th year at the helm. A manager who no doubt is putting together a Hall Of Fame career, many people questioned his effectiveness and the staleness of his message in 2010. Amidst many discussions of who the next manager would be, LaRussa signed a one year deal with a mutual option to return to the franchise.

Dave Duncan is the highest paid Pitching Coach in the game.
On the heels of LaRussa’s decision to return, Dave Duncan signed a deal of his own, signing a two year deal worth $750,000 per year with an option for a third year. It has been rumored that the Cardinals pitching coach wanted to coach for three more years before considering retirement and the current contract will attempt to ensure that he will end his legendary career wearing the uniform of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Marty Mason was relieved of his duties as bullpen coach.
Mason was known as one of the most reliable and intelligent bullpen coaches in the game, even being rumored to be considered for future pitching coach positions around the league. However, Mason was also one of the most vocal employees of the organization that disagreed with upper management’s plans for the franchise. He openly shared his opinion on player development and the different coaching mentalities at the various levels of the organization. Ultimately, the franchise showed their level of dedication to the structure of the organization and have promised to replace Mason with someone from within the organization currently.

Mark McGwire, Dave McKay, and Jose Oquendo will all return
The only true question in this trio was Mark McGwire, who had expressed an interest in staying home to help his wife with their newborn triplets. In the long run, it has come out that McGwire simply was not interested in deciding his future without knowing who he would be working for. Shortly after the announcement that LaRussa would continue to lead the club, McGwire agreed to return. Jose Oquendo has been rumored in the past to be considered for management positions around the league, though his name has not surfaced in many of the vacancies this season. Dave McKay was probably the most silent of the entire coaching staff, agreeing to return as the first base coach under Tony LaRussa once again.

The coaching staff is now in place and the Cardinals know who will lead the team into the 2011 season. Now, the true work begins as they attempt to determine who will be on the field and how much it will take to retain the greatest player in the game for the remainder of his career.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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