In life, there is nothing like going out on top. This is no more evident in athletics, where individual and team accomplishments occur in a person’s life at a relatively young age in comparison to how long he or she will live. So it’s easy for athletes to sort of “go out on top” by retiring from professional sports, oftentimes before they reach the age of 40.
Then there are those mainstays who remain in sports in one capacity or another until they are well beyond the length of time that average citizens remain in their own professional careers. These men and women are lifers, forever woven into the fabric of their respective field, and most are regarded as truly the greatest to ever contribute to their sport.
After nearly 50 seasons in baseball as a player and manager, La Russa goes out on top after winning his third World Series title last week. The sure-fire Hall-of-Famer leaves the game after cementing his legacy as one the greatest coaches in baseball and all professional sports.
La Russa creates a huge void in the Cardinals clubhouse, and his departure leaves an even larger impact on the organization, given the free agent status of superstar slugger Albert Pujols. Will Pujols leave St. Louis following the retirement of La Russa, the only manager he has had in his illustrious 11-year career?
The first domino has fallen, leading to both a celebratory and undecided offseason this winter. How will the Cards react? Who will they employ as manager? Keep in mind, whomever they hire as a replacement—though nobody can truly replace La Russa—will have an adverse affect on the decision of Pujols to remain in St. Louis.
Here are five candidates the Cardinals should look at as their new manager in 2012.