Ten for Ten: 10 Candidates to Replace Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa

Brian HaenchenContributor IIOctober 31, 2011

Ten for Ten: 10 Candidates to Replace Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa

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    UPDATE (11/3): St. Louis Post Dispatch writer Joe Strauss reported Wednesday evening that the following candidates (a list of "less than 10" candidates) would be interviewed by the Cardinals on Thursday: Terry Francona, Jose Oquendo, Ryne Sandberg (the team got permission from the Phillies to interview Sandberg), Chris Maloney, Mike Matheny, and Joe McEwing.

    GM John Mozeliak would only confirm that the interview process would begin today, but it is believed the team hopes to have a new manager in place within the next ten days.

    Strauss cited "multiple sources" who told him that the team had not sought permission to interview Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon. Maddon is under contract for next season and is expected to sign an extension before the start of spring training.   

    ORIGINAL: With Tony La Russa's retirement now official, Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak is faced with the arduous task of finding his replacement. Fortunately, Mozeliak has known of La Russa's plans since August, meaning that he has had time to formulate a list of suitable candidates.

    Here are 10 candidates to replace No. 10 in the Cardinals' dugout.

Cardinals Third Base Coach Jose Oquendo

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    STATUS UPDATE (11/3): As expected, Oquendo is one of the candidates being interviewed by the Cardinals. 

    Nicknamed the “Secret Weapon” during his playing days by manager Whitey Herzog for his ability to field any position (including pitcher), Jose Oquendo has been the fans' choice to replace La Russa as manager for the past few seasons. Now in his 12th season as the Cardinals' third base coach, Oquendo served as a field instructor in the organization’s farm system in 1997 before managing their New Jersey affiliate in 1998.

    As a player, Oquendo was known for his stellar fielding abilities and, with Ozzie Smith, formed one of the greatest middle infield tandems in Cardinals' history. In 1990, he set the single-season major league records for highest fielding percentage (.996) and fewest errors by a second baseman (3). He finished his 17-year career with a .992 fielding percentage.

    In addition to his season as manager of the Cardinals’ New Jersey affiliate in 1998, Oquendo also managed the Puerto Rican team in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic. He has interviewed for managerial positions in the past, including San Diego, Seattle, and most recently the New York Mets.

    Obviously, Oquendo has worked closely with all the current players, but it should be noted that he, along with bench coach Joe Pettini, developed Skip Schumaker into a serviceable second baseman and worked closely with Allen Craig at second base as the team worked to find him a regular spot in the starting lineup.

    While it seems like Oquendo has been groomed for this position, I think the Cardinals would be wise to consider candidates outside the organization as well. However, that does not mean I think Oquendo does not deserve consideration. In fact, I think not interviewing him for the job would be a disservice to him and could lead to a rift developing in the clubhouse down the road. 

Cardinals Bench Coach Joe Pettini

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    Unlike Oquendo, who is relatively inexperienced as a manager, Cardinals bench coach Joe Pettini has spent the majority of his career managing teams in the Cards’ farm system. He began his managerial career in 1989 with Hamilton, Ontario, before moving on to St. Petersburg in 1990 (60-74) and then Arkansas from 1991-1993 (175-229). In 1994, Pettini was selected to manage Class-AAA Louisville, where he guided the Redbirds to the 1995 American Association championship. He compiled a 475-569 record as a manager within the Cardinals’ farm system.

    After eight seasons at the helm of the Cardinals’ AAA affiliate, Pettini was “called-up” to join Tony LaRussa’s major league staff. As bench coach, he organizes pregame warm-ups and sets up infield positioning during the game. He, along with Jose Oquendo, helped convert Skip Schumaker to a second baseman.

    If the Cardinals decide to pick a candidate within the organization, it would appear that Pettini would be ahead of Oquendo based on experience. When La Russa took a leave of absence earlier this season because of a nasty case of shingles, it was Pettini who was selected to manage the team in his place. During that time, the Cardinals went 2-4, including a three-game sweep at the hands of the Reds.

Braves First Base Coach Terry Pendleton

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    One of the key players during the “Whitey Ball” era in Saint Louis during the mid-80s, third baseman Terry Pendleton was a fan favorite during his playing days. His speed and defensive ability compensated for an inconsistent batting average over his seven seasons with the Cardinals.

    In 2001, Pendleton became the hitting coach for the Atlanta Braves. In 2006, he was one of the finalists to replace Frank Robinson as manager of the Washington Nationals, but removed his name from consideration, citing his commitment to the Braves.

    Pendleton was also rumored to be a front-runner to replace La Russa last season, amid speculation the Cardinals skipper was planning to step down. In addition to reports that tied him to St. Louis, Pendleton was also a candidate to replace Bobby Cox in Atlanta when he retired at the end of the 2010 season.

    Pendleton’s decision to withdraw his name from consideration for the Nationals’ manager position is rather curious. Is he really that committed to the Atlanta Braves organization? Or was he waiting for a more enticing manager spot to open up in Atlanta or St. Louis?

    Washington is a team on the rise, but by waiting, Pendleton opens up the opportunity to start his managerial career with a team already built for success. If he returns to St. Louis to manage the Cardinals, he will already have the fans' support—given his playing days—and would be taking on a team that appears to be poised to reach “dynasty” status. 

Former Cardinals Catcher Mike Matheny

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    As a player, Mike Matheny was one of the most respected players in the clubhouse. His veteran leadership played a pivotal role during the 2002 season after the death of pitcher Darryl Kile.

    As a player, Matheny was heralded as one of the greatest defensive catchers in history, becoming one of just three catchers to play 100 games without a single error. He was forced to retire in 2006 after a series of foul balls off his helmet resulted in a serious concussion.

    In terms of coaching experience, Matheny became a baseball mentor for Protege Sports, which provides online sports training from professional athletes. He has served as the Cardinals' catching instructor during spring training for the past few seasons. 

    Matheny has not expressed much interest in returning to baseball as a manager in the near future, but there is nothing wrong with at least asking.

Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon

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    Unfortunately, Maddon is expected to sign an extension with Tampa Bay before the start of spring training, so Cardinals fans can cross him off their list of potential candidates.

    While he is still under contract for the 2012 season, if John Mozeliak could pull it off, Joe Maddon would make a lot of sense for the Cardinals. Maddon took over a struggling Tampa Bay team during the 2005 offseason, and after just two seasons, led them to the World Series in their first playoff appearance in franchise history.

    The Tampa Bay organization is built around its farm system and prides itself on being successful with young players. They needed a manager who could coach those young players and draw out the best in them. Maddon has proven to be that manager.

    The Rays have not finished with fewer than 80 wins over the past four seasons after 10 consecutive seasons of failing to win more than 70 games. Some may argue a limited sample size in their case against Maddon, but given the Cardinals’ youth movement, he is definitely worth a shot.

    Also keep in mind that Maddon has had all this success while competing against the likes of the Red Sox and Yankees on a regular basis.

    Now the question is, given all that success, why would Maddon want to leave Tampa Bay? For starters, there is that cavern of a stadium in the middle of St. Petersburg. The low-hanging catwalks beneath the ceiling have actually cost the Rays victories, and even with the team’s recent success, the commute from Tampa to Pinellas County makes it difficult for fans to justify traveling out to attend Rays’ games.

    In an article published by the Tampa Bay Times on July 20, Maddon agreed with ESPN’s John Cruk in his criticism of Tropicana Field after a series of stadium issues that affected the national broadcast of consecutive Rays games.

    "[Kruk is] right. We do need a new ballpark…this ballpark is improper for major league baseball," Maddon said in the article written by Marc Topkin. "You shouldn't play with all these obstructions and all these caveats … It's run its course. It was here for a moment. It served its purpose. And now it's time to move on … To deny that, everybody has just got their head in the sand, period."

    As for the location, Maddon also fired a shot in the direction of St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, who has been adamant about keeping the team in Pinellas County and plans to hold the team to its lease on the Trop, which runs through 2027.

    With a mayor who appears to be hell-bent on keeping the team from building a new stadium closer to the city and an ownership staff that is unwilling to stand up and do what is best for the franchise, the situation appears to be perfect for Maddon to jump ship for another organization.

    In St. Louis, Maddon would be playing in front of sell-out crowds almost every night, the Cardinals' roster is similar to Tampa’s with respect to their corps of young players and up-coming prospects, and he will be working with a front office staff that has shown a willingness to spend money and pull the trigger on key trades to improve the team. 

Former Boston Red Sox Manager Terry Francona

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    John Mozeliak is obligated to at least give Terry Francona a call about the Cardinals’ manager position. All he did in Boston was lead the Red Sox to two World Championships and five total playoff appearances. After the monumental collapse at the end of the 2011 season, which resulted in his contract not being renewed, Francona finished with a record of 744-552 as manager of the Red Sox.

    While as a Cardinals fan it would be fun to potentially steal Francona from the Chicago Cubs, he would be a good fit in St. Louis. The teams he had in Boston match up with the group he would be taking over here in St. Louis in terms of the mix of veteran super-stars and young prospects.

    If you are worried about that 2011 collapse, keep in mind Francona had 95 or more wins in five of his eight seasons with Boston in the toughest division in major league baseball. There is no reason to believe that he will not dominate a mediocre National League Central division.

    A word of caution concerning Francona: In Boston, there were no payroll limits. Essentially any player he wanted, he got. That will not be the case here in St. Louis, and that factor could work against him, especially if it comes down to him or Joe Maddon.

Lehigh Valley IronPigs Manager Ryne Sandberg

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    UPDATE: After firing manager Mike Quade Wednesday afternoon, Cubs president Theo Epstein released a statement with very specific criteria for his candidates. "He must have managerial or coaching experience at the major-league level.” This effectively eliminates Sandberg, who has only managed at the minor league level.

    Coincidentally, almost immediately after Epstein made his statement, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Cardinals had sought and received permission from the Phillies to interview Sandberg. It is believed that they will interview the Cubs Hall of Famer on Thursday. 

    ORIGINAL: Unhappy with getting overlooked by the Cubs to replace Lou Pinella as their manager (his dream job), Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg left the organization to manage the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Philadelphia Phillies' Triple-A affiliate. 

    Following a two-year stint with the Cubs Class-A affiliate in Peoria, Sandberg quickly rose through the ranks, spending a season managing their Double-A team before being promoted to Triple-A Iowa, where he was named the 2010 Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year.

    After the 2010 season, Pinella retired and actually suggested Sandberg replace him as manager of the Cubs. However, the front office decided to go with interim manager Mike Quade.

    If Mozeliak were to somehow bring Sandberg in to manage the Cardinals, it would have to be after Cubs President Theo Epstein makes his final decision on who will manage the Cubs.

    Sandberg's ideal job is to manage in the city of Chicago, so he is undoubtedly going to want to wait for Epstein to decide who he wants to manage his team. What better way for Sandberg to stick it to the Cubs than for him to replace La Russa as manager of the rival Cardinals. The situation he would be entering into would be ideal, and the friendly citizens of Cardinal Nation would immediately warm up to a manager who turned from the dark side. 

    Of all the managerial candidates I've laid out, Sandberg is probably the biggest reach. However, it would be fun to see him in the Cardinals dugout and would only intensify the Cardinals/Cubs rivalry. 

ESPN Baseball Tonight Analyst Bobby Valentine

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    Bobby Valentine could be a dark horse in the Cardinals’ search for a new manager. After stints with the Texas Rangers and the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan, Valentine led the Norfolk Tides, the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate, to an 82-59 record before being promoted to manager of the New York Mets in 1996.

    He took the Mets to a 97-66 record and a wild-card berth in 1999, but it was in 2000 that the Mets finally broke through. After finishing the season with a 94-68 record and another wild-card berth, Valentine’s club powered through the Cardinals in just 5 games in the NLCS to reach the World Series for the first time in 14 years.

    Valentine was ultimately driven out of town by general manager Steve Phillips, forcing him to return to Japan for his second stint as manager of the Marines. He is currently a member of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball crew and was a candidate for manager positions with the Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners and Florida Marlins.

    One concern I have about Valentine is that his teams in both New York and Texas were successful for a few seasons then completely fell apart. Maybe that's merely a reflection of poor ownership, or perhaps it is the sign of a bigger problem.

    Either way, he would be entering a situation in St. Louis that sets him up to succeed immediately. 

Chicago Cubs Color Commentator Bob Brenly

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    Bob Brenly made a pretty big splash in his four seasons as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. In his first season as manager, he defeated the New York Yankees in the 2001 World Series. Brenly followed up that performance with a 98-win season in 2002. After finishing third in the NL West in 2003 despite winning 84 games, Brenly was fired midway through the 2004 season after the team got off to a 29-50 start.

    The fact that Brenly has remained in the broadcast booth since being fired by Arizona in 2004 may raise some red flags. However, he has been in the running for numerous managerial positions and actually withdrew his name from consideration for the Cubs position last offseason. At the time, he cited personal and professional reasons, but said that he would love to get back on the field if “the situation felt right.”

    I would put Brenly toward the bottom of the list given his recent absence from managing, but he is worth a look. Like Maddon, he was successful with a roster of young, mostly unproven players during his time in Arizona.

    The Cardinals are an organization that is starting to bring in prospects and other young players to fill out their everyday lineup, and Mozeliak may sign a manager with experience dealing with prospect-type players.

Other Candidates for Your Consideration

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    Here are some names that will be floated around over the coming weeks as John Mozeliak searches for a replacement for Tony La Russa. 

    Cardinals Pitching Coach Dave Duncan

    Duncan has served as La Russa's pitching coach throughout his entire career. The two are close friends and one would think he would be next in line for the Cardinals' vacant managerial spot. However, I do not think Duncan would even want that position. He has established himself as one of the best pitching coaches in the majors and is considered by some to be worthy of a spot in the Hall of Fame. There is no reason for him to give up those responsibilities to manage a baseball team this late in his career. Also, Jeanine Duncan, Dave's wife, has been dealing with serious health issues over the past few months, meaning that retirement to spend more time with his ailing wife could be a real possibility for Duncan whose contract expires after this upcoming season. 

    San Francisco Giants Scout Jim Riggleman

    Riggleman played and coached in the Cardinals’ farm system during the late '70s and early '80s. Riggleman’s record as a major league manager (662-824) is less than impressive and he resigned in the middle of last season after the Washington Nationals did not pick up his option for next season. His connections to St. Louis may result in his name being tossed around, but Riggleman should not be considered a serious candidate.

    Springfield Cardinals Manager Ron "Pop" Warner

    Warner, 39, has spent his entire career, both as a player and as a coach, in the Cardinals' organization. 2011 marked Warner's fifth season as manager of the Cardinals' Double-A affiliate. In 2007, he led the Cardinals to the Texas League Championship Series in their first-ever playoff appearance before leading Springfield to a franchise-record 76 wins in 2008 and 2010. As manager of the Palm Beach Cardinals in 2005, Warner led the team to the Florida State League Championship. While most fans have probably never heard of Warner, his accomplishments in the Cardinal farm system should draw him some attention.

    Memphis Redbirds Manager Chris Maloney

    Entering his sixth season as the manager of the Redbirds, Maloney has been quite successful as a skipper within the Cardinals' organization. In 16 seasons as manager, Maloney is 979-902 and led Memphis to its second Pacific Coast League Title in 2009. If Mozeliak decides to replace La Russa with an in-house candidate, Maloney would make the most sense. He has a track record of success as a manager and has experiencing working with many of the players on the Cardinals roster. 


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