Tag Archive | "Jose Oquendo"

Time Capsule: Cardinals Videos From The 1980s

Spring Training games are in full effect with all 30 teams,  including the St. Louis Cardinals, took to the field to start getting ready for the season.  Meanwhile, Major League Baseball has opened the vaults and given the world access to video clips that were previously locked away.

The Cardinals were a powerhouse team in the National League in the 1980′s.  Three appearances in the World Series, including winning the championship in 1982, as well as some key moments throughout the decade had many people watching the team very closely.

Today, i70baseball brings you nine classic moments from the Cardinals in the 1980′s, courtesy of Major League Baseball.

Use the navigation controls below to take a look at each of the videos.  Leave us some comments and tell us the moments you most remember from the 1980′s in St. Louis.

<b>Bruce Sutter Closes Out 1982 World Series</b>

Picture 1 of 9


Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Random Thoughts: Cards vs. Phillies

The St. Louis Cardinals have dropped the first two games of a four game set with the Philadelphia Phillies, and both were heartbreakers which the Cards could (should?) have won. In both games, the Phils jumped all over the Cards’ starter for first inning leads. Both nights, the Cardinals battled back to tie or lead the game, but were not able to finish the job. Some notes and thoughts:

–The Phillies clearly are not the same team without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Normally, this would be a perfect time to face the Phils and exploit that vulnerability. But the Cardinals are so depleted by injury, they may be in even worse shape. Watching great teams locked in see-saw battles is exciting; watching teams full of replacements stumble through games and lead changes until one stumbles worse than the other is frustrating. It’s almost hard to imagine that these two teams clashed in an epic playoff series less than eight months ago.

–What was Yadier Molina thinking on the base paths Friday night? In the 4th, he tried to go first to third on a “can of corn” pop-up that Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino muffed in shallow right-center. Molina read the play right as the outfielders searched for the ball in the twilight sky; he was practically standing on second base by the time the ball dropped. But when he saw the Philly fielders fall over each other, he tried to leg out an extra base. And Molina is not a base runner that is going to fare well against someone like Pence—who has a cannon arm—in the outfield. Molina was gunned down at third…for the first out of the inning. Later, in the 8th inning with the game tied 3-3, Molina tried to score from first base (yep…you read that correctly) on a Matt Adams gapper. Molina is not alone in owning this one because Jose Oquendo was waving him home. But a collision with catcher Carlos Ruiz was not enough to knock the ball loose, and Molina was the third out of the inning. For those of you who haven’t completely forgotten everything from Little League, making the first or last outs of an inning at third base or home is generally frowned upon. He is still the best catcher in the league, and his offense this year has been a revelation. But a piece of advice for Yadier Molina, the base runner: know thyself.

–Speaking of that collision at home, it did seem a bit on the ballsy side for a catcher to plow into his counterpart like that. Collisions at home are a part of the game, and nothing about the play seemed dirty. But it will be interesting to see if Molina is the target of any repercussions throughout the rest of this series. I could be wrong, but Jonathan Papelbon’s first two offerings to Molina in the 10th seemed awfully high and tight.

–The recent antics by the Cardinals’ relief corps can be summed up by using a lot of one- or two-word descriptors, but I’ll keep it civil with a simple “Yikes.” Late addition to this note: the Cardinals have called up reliever Chuckie Fick from Triple A and optioned Fernando Salas back to Memphis. Time will tell if this ends up being an effective fix or a band-aid on a bullet wound.

–Whoever came up with the idea for Fredbird to dash across the field sans jersey in between innings Friday night after the streaking incident Thursday should be applauded. Good stuff. And if it somehow deters future hijinks on the field, please find a way to do something similar in the stands to stop The Wave.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained

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The Luhnow Legacy

Somewhere in the whirlwind that is known as the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals off-season, a very key piece of the organization left the club without much fanfare. Events quickly moved from World Series parade, to Tony LaRussa’s retirement, to the Albert Pujols negotiations, to Dave Duncan’s leave of absence, to the Winter Warm Up. I can not think of another team that had so much turnover  immediately following a World Championship as the Cardinals experienced. In the midst of the flurry of off-season activity it is certainly understandable how a key move made but a small splash.

Lunhow,

Cardinal Nation barely had a chance to catch its breath from World Series Game 7 before Tony LaRussa announced his retirement. In the following weeks Albert Pujols, Joe Pettini, and Dave McKay all moved on to other clubs. Cardinal pitching coach Dave Duncan announced that he would take a leave of absence to be with his wife as she continues her battle with cancer.  When the Cardinals take the field against the Miami Marlins on April 4, 2012, Jose Oquendo will be the only uniformed coach that has been with the team since 2009.

Despite all of the turnover within the club, there is great optimism within the Cardinals front office, the team, the coaches, and a majority of the fan base at the prospects for the 2012 season. Before completely shifting focus to 2012, I want to reflect on a 2011 departure that gets less attention, but has tremendous organizational impact. On the very same night the Los Angeles Angels were finalizing a deal to sign Albert Pujols, the Houston Astros named Jeff Luhnow their new general manager.

Jeff Luhnow was the head of the Cardinals scouting and drafting department. He established a strong presence in Latin America for the team, and brought the Cardinals into a new era of player development that used both scouting and analytics.  He worked for the team from 2003 until this past December. Since 2005, Luhnow turned the Cardinals farm system from one of the worst in baseball to arguably one of the top five in the league. This was done in spite of the fact the Cardinals never had a top ten pick during any of the drafts he oversaw.

Luhnow is not a “baseball insider” that worked his way up through the ranks. He was more comfortable with spreadsheets than with scouting reports when he was hired by the Cardinals. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with degrees in economics and engineering, and earned his MBA at Northwestern University. Prior to joining the Cardinals in 2003, he worked in mechanical and chemical engineering, spent five years in management consulting, did entrepreneurial work, and served as a vice president of marketing for Petstore.com.

In the early part of the last decade, teams had to quickly adapt to the new emphasis on analytics brought about from the release of the book “Moneyball”. The book highlighted the Oakland Athletics success, despite an incredibly small payroll, using advanced statistics to find market inefficiencies in player evaluation. Luhnow was one of the early baseball analytics experts given a front office job. He was hired to make sense of the new analytics and improve the Cardinal’s international scouting. He quickly integrated database analysis into personnel decisions.

Said more simply, Luhnow drafted and developed enough talent to allow the Cardinals to win two World Series titles in six years. He leaves the club well positioned to compete in 2012 and beyond. The Cardinals can not pay top dollar for more than four or five players every year, due to being a bottom-third market city. To have Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman, Chris Carpenter, and Carlos Beltran, they must find production from young, cost-controlled players to have a competitive team year in and year out.

Beyond just analyzing numbers on a page, Luhnow implemented “bio-mechanics” within the Cardinals player development process. Pitchers were taught the mechanics, rhythm, and tempo that aid them in remaining injury free. Former big-league pitchers worked with young Cardinal pitchers on the mental aspects of the game needed to be able to compete at the highest level. Hitters worked with video not only as a means to scout opponents, but to improve their swing and approach at the plate. This does not seem to be such a big deal in 2012, but not many other teams were using video to this level in 2004.

Luhnow was hired by Bill Dewitt against the wishes of then GM Walt Jocketty. It was a front-office riff that would eventually lead to Jocketty’s departure following the 2007 season. Little did Jocketty know at the time just what Luhnow was building between 2005 and 2007. The 2005-2007 drafts produced Allen Craig, Daniel Descalso, Jaime Garcia, and Jon Jay. Also in those drafts were players used in the trades for Matt Holliday, Rafael Furcal, Octavio Dotel, Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepcynski, as well as Luke Gregerson and Chris Perez.

There are an abundance of prospects in the system that project to be impact players: Shelby Miller, Oscar Taveras, Tyrell Jenkins, Carlos Martinez, Matt Adams, Ryan Jackson, Kolten Wong, Zach Cox, Trevor Rosenthal, John Gast, Jordan Swagerty, and Joe Kelly, among others.

As the 2012 season fast approaches, there will be a lot of new faces for Cardinals fans to get used to. One of those faces is the man hired to replace Jeff Luhnow, Dan Kantrovitz . If he performs his jobs well, Cardinals fans won’t feel the loss of Luhnow. He has big shoes to fill. Matheny has already made clear that he will place a large emphasis on advanced scouting and metrics.

Any success Kantrovitz has will be built upon the foundation of integrating scouting and analytics that Luhnow brought to the organization. Luhnow should be remembered as a key piece to a great era of Cardinal baseball. I am glad the Cardinals will not have the Astros as division foes but for another year. Although they are a very bad baseball team at the moment, I fully expect them to be a force to contend with under Luhnow’s leadership.

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The Immediate Post-Duncan Era

The St. Louis Cardinals’ offseason continued its roller coaster ride this week after Thursday’s announcement that longtime pitching coach Dave Duncan was leaving the team indefinitely to focus on caring for his wife, who has been battling brain cancer. Obviously, personal lives and relationships always trump everything else, and Duncan’s priorities seem to be in order. But the pitching staff he leaves behind has to find a way to do its job without him, and a number of those hurlers have never had a different pitching coach at the Major League level.

It seems like these stories pop up every other day since the Cardinals won the 2011 World Series. First Tony La Russa retired, and then Albert Pujols bolted for greener pastures. Jeff Luhnow is gone. Dave McKay is gone. All these names Cardinals players and fans have seen as mainstays for so many years have disappeared from the register.

Duncan looked like one of only a few holdovers from the old regime. His contract covered him for the 2012 season, and he had an option for 2013. But he has more important things to attend to right now, and his time wearing the Birds on the Bat has come to an end as well. Now the longest-tenured coach on the Cards’ staff is Jose Oquendo. Number two is Mark McGwire.

Duncan’s importance to the Cards’ pitching staffs over the years is impossible to overstate. And many nails will be no doubt bitten down to the nub wondering if that magic he worked on so many Cardinal hurlers over the years is gone forever. But it may not be that way at all.

For the last 12 seasons, the Cardinals have listed exactly two starting catchers at the top of their depth chart: Mike Matheny and Yadier Molina. Now Matheny is the team skipper, and Molina is still behind the plate. Both are among the most highly regarded in their abilities to call a game and handle a pitching staff. Duncan is largely the reason. And when Papa Dunc had to leave the team near the end of August to be with his ailing wife, recently appointed Cards pitching coach Derek Lilliquist stepped in to take his place. All he did was preside over the staff while they were helping to orchestrate the greatest regular season comeback in baseball history. Even Chris Carpenter has stepped in for some coaching opportunities…remember when he found that flaw in Adam Wainwright’s delivery, just before Waino went on a tear to nearly win the Cy Young Award a couple years back? Certainly Carp didn’t wake up one day in tune to every other pitcher’s mechanics. That’s the hallmark of Dave Duncan, and he’s passed his wisdom on to a number of people in the Cards’ organization.

Perhaps we’ve seen the last of the days where a Kent Bottenfield or a Woody Williams find new life under Duncan’s direction. But maybe the Cardinals no longer need that “dumpster-dive” mentality. They have a full pitching staff now, and all those guys know how to get the job done. And the depth in the minor leagues certainly offers a lot of promise as some of the veteran free agents cycle out of town. Plus it’s impossible to know what the future holds. The Cards seem to have a pretty good grasp on player development these days. That makes it a lot easier to take surer bets rather than the projects Duncan specialized in.

It hurts to lose Duncan, and the reason why is even sadder. The Cardinals cannot possibly replace him; the guy should probably be the first coach to go into the Hall of Fame. But he has left this team in capable hands…hands into which he put the tools to succeed. And after all, the coach can only do so much. Execution still has to take place on the field, and that’s true no matter who sits in the dugout.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter at @birdbrained.

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Could Oquendo Find Solace Within The Division

The Cardinals shocked most everyone by hiring Mike Matheny as the manager for the 2012 season. Many thought Jose Oquendo was the heir apparent to the throne.

To Oquendo’s credit, the alleged snub to the position did not deter him from returning to the Cardinals as their third base coach. For how long is a completely different question.

The Houston Astros officially announced the dismissal of the team’s president, TAl Smith, and general manager, Ed Wade. What has been left unclear is how the field manager and coach positions will be handled. Many within the organization feel that it may be left up to the new general manager.

Jose Oquendo has often been thought of as the next manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. Over the past few seasons he has been interviewed for various vacant positions in Major League Baseball. Though it has not been clear as to why, he has not to my knowledge received a second interview for any position. It is thought within the industry that Oquendo was simply preparing himself for the position in St. Louis and, while thankful for the interview, was not interested in pursuing the opportunities further.

Oquendo has served as the manager for the Puerto Rico team in the two installations of the World Baseball Classic. Heralded for his work there with both established veterans and young players, it propelled Oquendo’s name to the top of many managerial lists. His continued work within the country during the major league off season keeps his name being talked about as a coach ready to make the jump.

While there have been some openings in baseball this year, very few line up for a coach like Oquendo the way the Astros’ position, should it become vacant, does. It is a young ball club that will most likely be searching for a manager to grow with them. The payroll and expectations will be kept low for the next few seasons and a manager that can work with the youth of the farm system to help develop them into the future of the franchise will become paramount.

The toughest decision to come for the Astros may be where their future lies. With a pending move to the American League, the manager will need to be very flexible and capable of running a team utilizing National League rules one season and American League rules the following. A young manager, in terms of experience managing, would fit that requirement as well. The drawback for Oquendo in that sense would be his tenure being completely National League based.

Many fans assumed, hoped and dreamed of “The Secret Weapon” managing the St. Louis Cardinals. With the appointment of Mike Matheny, that time may well have passed. I for one believe he deserves a chance in Major League Baseball and Houston may provide the best opportunity of all.

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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Cards Announce Coaching Staff

In a brief news conference this afternoon, the Cardinals announced their coaching staff for 2012.

Very few surprises here, in all honesty. The only exception being the expected addition of an established coach for the bench. The Cardinals remained within the organization for all positions.

Chris Maloney, who has served as a manager in the minor leagues for the Cardinals, has been promoted and will take over duties at first base for Dave McKay who is being “reassigned within the organization”.

Joining McKay will be longtime bench coach Joe Petini as he is replaced by Mike Aldrete. Aldrete has served as assistant batting instructor and has been rumored for a promotion for some time now.

Meanwhile, third base coach Jose Oquendo, bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist, and hitting coach Mark McGwire will all return under new manager Mike Matheny. Dave Duncan had already confirmed his return and that was reiterated today.

The surprises here come at third base and on the bench for me. I expected the Cardinals to give Matheny a more seasoned veteran at his right hand. Aldrete has put in his time and has a lot of respect within the organization but one has to wonder if this was the right time for his move.

Aldrete started coaching in 2001, working in the Diamondbacks’ minor league system for three years before joining the major league staff in Seattle as a first base coach in 2004. He would return to Arizona as the hitting coach for the following two years before arriving in St. Louis as the assistant hitting coach in 2008.

Oquendo returning to coach third base shows a dedication to the team and confidence from the team. Many felt he was slighted by not being named manager and, hopefully, this shows that there are no hard feelings. It makes one appreciate the Cardinal way of life when you look at the fact that Ryan Sandberg left the Cubs organization when he was passed over for a job that many felt was “his”.

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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The Winner Is: Mike Matheny?

In just a few short hours, the Cardinals will convene a press conference to announce the 33rd manager in the history of the franchise.

The keys to the family sports car are about to be handed to the sixteen year old.

There were six managerial candidates that were interviewed for the vacant spot atop the St. Louis Cardinals team on the field. Only one, Terry Francona, had major league management experience. Two, Ryne Sandberg and Chris Maloney, were highly regarded managers at the Triple A level. Two, Jose Oquendo and Joe McEwing, are former Cardinals and major league coaches that have gained a lot of respect (even if players don’t listen to “stop” signs). The final one is a former Cardinal catcher, a roaming instructor in the Cardinals system, and has no coaching or managerial experience.

Yep, that’s the one everyone would pick.

By no means am I saying that I do not support this move. Mike Matheny is a class act, a baseball mind, a good guy, and was definitively in charge of a field when it stood behind the plate. He is a player that is ingrained in the traditions of Cardinal nation. He obviously interviewed very well and said everything that the Cardinals’ upper management needed to hear. But it is a certain gamble for one of baseball’s most historic and traditional franchises to go with an inexperienced manager at the helm.

There are a ton of questions that will not be answered until 2012 and some that will be answered soon. We will not know until the season progresses how Matheny manages. We will not know if he will prefer a veteran arm to a young rookie. We will not know if players like Daniel Descalso and Nick Punto are the types of guys we will see a lot of or if he tends to run the same lineup out there 140 games a year. The biggest question on the mind of some is simple: Will the pitcher ever hit eighth again?

Some questions are about to be answered soon. One of the most important will be the appointment of the bench coach. With a manager with little experience, you would think the Cardinals will put a strong bench coach next to him to help alleviate some of the concern. The rest of the coaching staff will start to fall into place, the Pujols negotiations will heat up, and the Cardinals will delve into free agency and trades to solidify the few shortcomings they have entering the new season. Some of these moves will make it evident what type of team Matheny will prefer.

One thing is for certain. As of eleven o’clock central time this morning, all eyes are now on number 22.

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Rob Rains Inside Baseball: The Manager

When you don’t do something for 16 years, it’s logical that you might be a little rusty at it. And when you have never done something before, it’s even more understandable.

All of which means we should not be surprised at what has happened so far in the Cardinals’ search for a manager to succeed Tony La Russa. It’s the first time the Cardinals have gone through picking a new manager since 1995 and the first time ever that team chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and GM John Mozeliak have gone through a managerial search.

Maybe that is why this search seems so different than what is going on in Boston and Chicago, a fact which might be a little disconcerting for all Cardinal fans.

Does anybody else wonder, for example, why the Cubs and Red Sox seem to be working from the exact same pool of managerial candidates, and that none of those possible managers is even on the list of people DeWitt and Mozeliak plan to interview?

Or, to cite another example, if Jose Oquendo is such a top candidate to become the next Cardinals’ manager, why is he not included in the folks interviewing for the jobs in Boston and Chicago?

One more question which is a little troubling – if Terry Francona is indeed the Cardinals’ top candidate, and if he has said he is interested in the job, why go through the charade of other interviews, and why wait more than a week to bring him to town for an interview?

That delay suggests that Francona either has doubts about taking the job if it is offered to him, or that the Cardinals have doubts that Francona is the right fit for the St. Louis job, but feel an obligation to interview him anyway.

From Francona’s standpoint, there would be a great deal of pressure in succeeding La Russa, and he is leaving a highly pressurized job in Boston. Maybe he wants to take a year off before getting back into a major-league dugout. That certainly would be understandable.

Another reason for the delay might be because Francona wants to see if he can get a read on what is happening with the Cubs’ position before he has to make a decision to take or reject the Cardinals’ job, if it is offered to him.

An interesting case could be made that Francona would be a better fit for the Cubs’ job than for the Cardinals, unless his relationship with Theo Epstein was so fractured by how everything ended in Boston that it cannot be repaired.

Reportedly, however, Epstein and Francona have been in communication about the Cubs situation and Francona’s biggest problems at the end in Boston were with the Red Sox’ owners, not Epstein.

If that is true, wouldn’t Francona be more comfortable continuing to work for Epstein and Jed Hoyer, two men he has worked with successfully in the past, instead of having to work with people he likely has never even met or talked with before this interview process? And, which job would present a bigger challenge, while also providing less pressure, Chicago or St. Louis?

Especially if the Cardinals re-sign Albert Pujols, the expectation is that this team will be a contender, if not the favorite, to repeat in 2012. The Cubs have no such expectations. And if Francona can go to Chicago and win the team’s first pennant since 1945 and first World Series since 1908, after breaking the curse in Boston, plans for his canonization as a saint should begin immediately.

One person who offered an interesting opinion on the difference between managing the Cubs and the Cardinals came this week from La Russa, during a radio interview with ESPN 1000 in Chicago.

“I think the neatest thing about the Chicago Cubs’ situation is it’s got the best dream going: to bring a world championship to that town,” La Russa said in the interview. “I think that turns on a lot of baseball people at whatever level because it’s a challenge that you look forward to. Imagine being a part of that situation. I think in that regard it’s tough to top that for the other 29 clubs. I think the biggest dream going right now is the Cubs.”

Another difference between the way the Cardinals and Cubs are conducting their job search is that the Cubs have made their interviews known to the public, and have had each of their candidates meet with the media after the interview, considering it a part of the process to see how that person interacts with the media. The Cardinals have not done that, forcing the media to rely on “sources” to let them know who has been and will be interviewed.

In addition to Francona, five other candidates reportedly have or will be interviewed for the Cardinals’ job. They have interviewed former Cardinal catcher Mike Matheny, Triple A manager Chris Maloney and former Cardinal Joe McEwing, hired last week to be the third-base coach of the Chicago White Sox after several years managing in their farm system.

The other two scheduled to interview this week, besides Francona, are Oquendo and former Cub Ryne Sandberg. Of the five other than Francona, the only one interviewed by another club looking for a manager this year was McEwing, by the White Sox.

Two people expected to be on the Cardinals’ list, but who so far have not been contacted, are former Washington manager Jim Riggleman and Atlanta coach and former Cardinal Terry Pendleton. In addition, former Cardinal and longtime minor league manager Tom Lawless is scheduled to meet with Mozeliak later this week.

One of the hardest parts of monitoring the Cardinals’ search is the uncertainty of what they are looking for in a new manager — since DeWitt and Mozeliak have never picked one before. After Matheny’s interview, he said much of the three hours he spent with DeWitt and Mozeliak centered on a discussion about leadership, and what the managerial candidate felt was the necessity and the characteristics of being a leader, and the importance of being the leader in the clubhouse.

Matheny almost certainly scored major points in the leadership category, but how much that will weigh against his lack of managing or coaching experience is uncertain. The Cardinals do not seem to have made that a major component of their job qualifications, at least at the major-league level, or they would be interviewing a different group of candidates.

La Russa, in his radio interview in Chicago, actually gave Sandberg’s candidacy more of a boost than others have done.

“I’ve heard he’s done a really good job in the minor leagues,” La Russa said about Sandberg, who ran the Phillies’ Triple A club this season. “I also pay him huge credit points and respect points. How many Hall of Famers do you know who are ready to go to the minor leagues and manage and prove what they can do?

“It’s not just the baseball side when you think about minor league travel and when you get to Triple-A, those 4 o’clock wakeups where you’ve got to make three stops to get to your town and get your club ready to play. It is paying some severe dues and the fact that he paid them I think says something very special about him.”

What nobody is saying about the Cardinals’ search is that DeWitt and Mozeliak are no doubt looking for a manager who fits into their organizational philosophy, meaning someone who will take input and suggestions from a variety of sources, including statistical analysis. A first-time manager probably will be much more likely to fall into that category than someone with multiple years of major-league experience, such as Francona.

Financial considerations also no doubt will play a role in the decision. Hiring Francona will certainly cost more than hiring Matheny or Oquendo, for example. If having continuity with the coaching staff is important, that also would suggest that Matheny or Oquendo could be the choice, knowing they would keep the bulk of the coaching staff intact, while Francona would likely want to bring in several of his own coaches.

The other major uncertainty in making this decision, of course, is timing. Almost everyone who has spent time around Matheny knows that he has all of the qualities to become a great major-league manager someday, except for the experience of actually coaching or managing. But if he goes out and gets that experience for a couple of years, will the Cardinals’ job be open again at that time? Or will he get the experience in the St. Louis system, then get plucked off to manage another major-league team? If the Cardinals think Matheny is the best choice now, they need to hire him now and not run the risk of him going to another team.

It is interesting to note that of the 10 managers who began their first full season in the major leagues in 2011, six of them were first-time managers. Kirk Gibson and Ron Roenicke each led their teams to division titles.

Ultimately, what the Cardinals have to decide is what qualities they view as the most important in their selection of a new manager – leadership, experience and/or the willingness to work with the front office. Make the wrong choice, and the team will suffer the consequences. Make the right choice, and it could be a home run. Or the pick could fall somewhere in between and be neither a great success or an abominable failure but just an OK choice.

Mozeliak has said he would like to have his decision made before the GM meetings begin Nov. 14 in Milwaukee, or certainly before Thanksgiving, so we won’t have to wait much longer.

Read more of Rob’s thoughts on The Stl Sports Page.

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TLReplacement

Following the parade through the streets of downtown St. Louis, and subsequent celebratory ceremony inside Busch Stadium on Sunday afternoon, long-time Cardinals manager, Tony LaRussa called a meeting. It would be his last. He told the players, coaches, and the small intimate group in attendance that he’d decided to retire, and would not be returning for another season. Nearly everyone was shocked, many were emotional, and only those who were there know exactly what it was like in that moment. David Freese recounted in a radio interview on Thursday, “I’m glad I was sitting down when he told us.”.

Tony LaRussa announces his retirement after 33 years of managing in MLB. Bill DeWitt Jr, Tony LaRussa, John Mozeliak (L to R)

Less than a week later, the organization has already begun conducting interviews for LaRussa’s replacement. The list that’s apparently floating around out there, though it doesn’t appear the club has confirmed it, includes the following handful of candidates:

And right on cue, Cardinals fans are pissing a moaning about the lackluster “short list”.

“Where’s Joe Maddon??”
“They have to give it to Oquendo!”
“Francona is the only guy with any Major League experience!”
“Why isn’t Don Mattingly on the list?”
“Can’t hire Sandberg–he was a CUB!”
“They can’t give it to Oquendo!”

…and plenty of other nonsensical outcries.

Listen, poll Cardinal Nation a week ago, and ask “With whom should the Cardinals replace Tony LaRussa?”, and EVERYBODY on the aforementioned list is suddenly over-qualified. People are writing in “Helen Keller”, “My dead grandma”, “My dog, Rolen”, and “lamp shade” as quickly as they can. It’s the battle cry we’ve heard from half of Cardinal Nation for the last decade and a half: “A.B.L.”, baby, Anybody But LaRussa.

Yet, now that it’s a situation that the Cardinals are actually in, it’s being taken to the next level. Now, anyone who has ever worn the birds on the bat is suddenly deserving and qualified to manage the 2012 team. Milt Thompson? Bingo! Rex Hudler? Bring him in! Keith Hernandez? Perfect man for the job. Todd Zeile? Slap a “12” on his back, and call him skipper! I cannot, for the life of me, understand the logic behind these arguments…and spare me the “they understand the Cardinal way” stuff. A year ago, Marty Mason would’ve been “perfect” in a lot of these same folks’ minds.

I suppose it’s simply the emotion-driven sentiment that comes along with most fan bases. When you’re talking sheer numbers, and almost as many different personality types, logic & sound reasoning often elude the masses. I wrote about that earlier, but I’m no less irritated by it today than I was then.

But, now we’ve gone and taken it to a whole new level. We, as a general fan base, are demanding…DE-MAND-ING that Joe Maddon bring himself, and those highlights we’ve not seen since the Edmonds days, down to 700 Clark Street, and meet with Mo. And I mean yesterday! Repeat after me: Joe…Maddon…

(no, seriously, go ahead and say it aloud)

Joe. Maddon. Is. Under. Contract.

If the right thing to do is pursue a manager who is already under contract with another team, then why don’t the Cardinals just skip all the messing around, and just go get Mike Scioscia? He’s under contract until 2018, sure…but that’s irrelevant, because the Cardinals fans want him in St. Louis, right? Look, I’d be just as happy as the next guy to have Maddon or Scioscia in the home dugout calling the shots at Busch next summer and beyond. But for me, that wish is on the same list that has all that stuff about Jessica Alba, and for those of you familiar with the phrase, I’ll bet my other hand fills up first.

Maybe the good folks in the front office at Tropicana Field are still a little sore about the way the whole rumored ‘Colby Rasmus & others for Jeff Niemann & others’ deal that, at least according to some accounts, John Mozeliak pulled the rug out from under Andrew Friedman at the last minute. “If Mozeliak from St. Louis calls, don’t answer.” may be the standing order to the staff down in St. Pete. That kind of stuff happens, folks. There are an awful lot of egos out there, and many of them are quite sizable. Relationships between the Cardinals and Padres have been favorable in recent years, it’s reasonable to assume that other relationships aren’t as good, and some might be downright bad. It would be most unfortunate if the relationship between the Cardinals and the Rays were bad, though, for a number of reasons–not the least of which is that in some ways, the Rays are the new Expos.

I don’t know who the next manager of the St. Louis Cardinals will be. Interviews began on Thursday, when two candidates met with members of the Cardinals brass. Francona is expected to interview Friday, while interview times for Delino DeShields and the great Casey Stengel have not yet to be determined. Mozeliak has given a tentative timetable of the next few weeks to get a deal done–presumably some time before Thanksgiving is a general target. Either way though, rushing a decision is obviously a mistake, but promptness needs to be balanced with being thorough and confident in their selection.

After all, there’s other important business to tend to.

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Winter Warm-Up: Oquendo, Mozeliak Give an Inside Look

When St. Louis Cardinal Players speak to the media at the Winter Warm-Up, most of the discussion focuses on them. They answer questions about their injuries or overall health, they talk about their off-season routines, and they offer their opinions about how the team shapes up for the coming year. But when coaches or members of the front office take the podium, what is said can be much more official, behind-the-scenes, and in many cases newsworthy.

Jose Oquendo is much more than just the third base coach. He sees the whole game and has his finger on the pulse of the team in terms of pitching, hitting, fielding, and base running. No wonder he’s on at least one team’s list of managerial candidates every off-season.

Oquendo talked about the recently signed Ian Snell, having managed him in the World Baseball Classic. Oquendo thinks Snell can benefit from the teaching of Dave Duncan, saying “he’s a good kid; he just needs some guidance.” He thinks Snell would be a good candidate to fill in as a fifth starter because he has the tools; he just needs to straighten everything out.

When it comes to playing in the field, few former players can offer more perspective than Oquendo who played at least one inning at every position. “The Secret Weapon,” as he was called while playing for the Cardinals, knows the team is in a tenuous position with David Freese still battling back from injury. Allen Craig was a candidate to back Freese up before the Nick Punto signing, and Oquendo recognized Craig’s inexperience. “We haven’t seen much of him playing third; he puts the work (in) on it, he does a lot of work, but it’s different practicing than when the games start,” Oquendo said. “I think he can do an accurate job up here, but for me he just needs to hit. If he hits here in the Major Leagues, we can find a spot (for him).” Oquendo further expressed concern over the backup role because he doesn’t know how Freese has progressed in his rehab from an ankle injury, and actually broke the news that the Cards had signed infielder Ramon Vazquez before the information had been made public. By the expressions on their faces, this caught most writers in the room off guard.

Oquendo also said he thinks Ryan Theriot could be a player similar to former Cardinal David Eckstein and is anxious to see him play. He said Yadier Molina has dropped a lot of weight, and joked that even though that will help the longevity of his knees, it probably won’t do much for his speed on the base paths. Oquendo is laid-back and easy to listen to, but he is still a professional with a deep knowledge of the game that shows up in everything he says.

When GM John Mozeliak takes the podium, he is personable but all business. Mozeliak’s words are carefully measured and matter-of-fact without being curt. “It’s an exciting time to be down here at the Winter Warm-Up,” he said after making sure everyone was ready to start. “I think all of you would agree, it’s when you can start focusing on Spring Training and that’s the really fun part. It’s great to see the players in a casual atmosphere before we actually get down to Jupiter (Fla.).”

Mozeliak started off by announcing the Cards had signed reliever Kyle McClellan to a one year contract, avoiding arbitration. He also said because of the signings of Snell and Miguel Batista, McClellan will likely not have to prepare himself to possibly compete for a starting job this spring like he did in years past. “In Kyle’s situation, I think he’s going to be brought in and kept in the role he’s had success in,” he said. “When you think about our bullpen in terms of Kyle, Boggs, Motte and Franklin, I think those are four very good arms at the back end of the bullpen.”

When asked about the third base situation, Mozeliak talked about internal depth at third base but left the door open for the acquisition of another backup third baseman (which, of course, happened). As for Freese, Mozeliak is hopeful but realistic in evaluating the third baseman in terms of rehabilitation, conditioning, and game readiness. “Candidly, we’re not going to know until we get him out there on the field,” Mozeliak said. “But the one thing we are certainly going to do is make sure that David Freese’s projectable playing day is going to be Opening Day and not the first day of Spring Training. So we still have time to make sure that we condition him to be ready to play by when the real bell goes off.”

Other than the now infamous disclosure of the Spring Training Deadline, Mozeliak remained steadfast in not talking about Albert Pujols’ contract negotiations no matter how the question was asked. Mozeliak may divulge news, but he plays his secrets close to the vest.

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That wraps up my series on the 2011 Winter Warm-Up. Special thanks goes to our fearless leader here at I-70 Baseball, Bill Ivie…not only for securing the media credential from the St. Louis Cardinals but also for trusting me enough to allow me to represent the site at the event. I would also like to thank the Cardinals for letting a little old blogger like me into their inner circle for a day. I realize and appreciate how rare the opportunity was, and hope it can become more than a one time thing.

Chris Reed is a freelance writer from Belleville, IL who also writes about the Cardinals for InsideSTL on Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he wants. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

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