Well that didn’t last too long. Not even a week into their off season as World Series champions and the St. Louis Cardinals are forced to move on. Now I am not faulting Tony LaRussa for announcing his retirement when he did. It is actually a refreshing change from his usual post season melodrama of should I stay or should I go.
The timing of his decision is actually in the best interest of the team. By waiting until after the season he kept the focus on the players and their historic post season run, not offering himself up as a distraction. And in turn by letting it be known to the world as soon as he did he gave the organization a head start on finding his successor.
Who Bill Dewitt and John Mozeliak chose to take the reigns as skipper of the Cardinals will have an immediate impact on the look and feel of the 2012 club.
With TLR leaving, and throwing a wrench into my post-Pujols plans (I think he’s gone) the Cardinals could end up with a manager running the same lineup out there day in and day out. How boring and predictable would that be? Over the last 16 years I have grown accustomed to LaRussa using players all over the field and within various rotations and platoons.
The options that present themselves are pretty obvious. Lance Berkman slides in to first base and Allen Craig begins his assault on the National League by becoming the everyday right fielder. There is the possibility of moving Freese over to first and mixing and matching some form of Schumaker, Craig, Berkman, Descalso rotation between right and third-base. I pray that does not happen.
It is because of options such as these that my choice for TLR’s replacement would be someone with an extensive back ground in the National League. Terry Francona is a good manager and I’m sure would do a fine job. But in my opinion he is not the choice here. It has been a while since Tito has had to strategize in a ball game for a 162 games.
The National League game requires anticipating moves innings before they happen and playing the match-ups more so than the game in that other league. Without the abomination that is the DH a manager has to find more creative ways to get his bench players at bats game in and game out.
Terry Francona has not had to think like that in quite a while. You have been growing the replacement for years. He knows the organization, the Cardinal way and most importantly he know the players and the coaches.
Ushering in the Oquendo era is the right move here. Doing so allows the team, most likely, to keep pitching guru Dave Duncan around for at least another year. This would be most helpful while looking for a suitable replacement. Two other reasons; Oquendo is cheaper and you don’t have to trade for him (Maddon).
And finally, failing with Oquendo is much easier to look past than failing with Francona or Maddon. Oquendo is the organization guy who earned his chops under one of the best ever. It is Secret Weapon time.