Just when we thought the crazy part of the baseball year was over, St. Louis now has to fill two very large holes barely a week after celebrating WS Title #11. And for the first time, the thought of not having TLR scowling from the dugout still is hard to imagine.
After the final out of Game 7, the last thing most Cardinal fans expected to break them out of their party mood was this announcement. It seriously took a few days to try and picture just how different the 2012 team will look without LaRussa and honestly, that could be the best compliment for the surefire HOF skipper.
This decision was made before the magical two months, and that should help ease the transition a little…if anyone agreed on his successor.
Like most seasoned (read: addicted) followers of the Birds on the Bat, everyone has thought who would make a good replacement the last 5-10 years. Ever since winning in 2006, it appeared St. Louis was preparing to move on but only on TLR’s schedule. Now that the time is here, Cards’ GM John Mozeliak gets to put his stamp on what shapes up to be the biggest few months in recent memory.
Candidates span just about every facet of the game, and the process is already in full swing. Given that taking over a team that wins it all rarely happens, the pieces are in place for a different kind of introduction. No matter who gets the job, the pressure to win may very well be greater on the Missouri side of the I-55.
St. Louis needs a strong face to lead the organization on the field, but no one can step right into LaRussa’s shoes. This makes it hard to see either Jose Oquendo or Joe Pettini man the position for next season given they only know the TLR way. Both need experience on another staff before elevating to the top spot in my opinion.
While the Cardinals could also take the White Sox model and promote a former player with no managing experience, it makes much more sense to look at what happened last winter. Derek Lilliquist worked his way through the system before making it to St. Louis and stepped in admirably for Dunc when needed this summer.
One candidate sets himself apart from the rest given how the current roster is designed. Especially with a number of big-time financial decisions to be made, the next manager needs to have an intimate relationship with the minor league system already in place. Ryno and Tito are certainly bigger names, but Chris Maloney must be the choice no matter who mans first base in April.
It remains to be seen how long the process will continue, and one or two surprise interviews may be in the mix. As far as this corner of PH8 is concerned, the favorite has already stated his case. Look no further than over half of the 40-man roster to see how many of the important pieces graduated from Memphis.
The time is now to see how much has passed on from teacher to student and at least this time the best candidate already knows the Cardinal way.