With GM John Mozeliak and chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. about to choose a manager, let's handicap the field. I've put them in most likely order of finish (my opinion only.)
Also, this little exercise isn't for the fans and journalists who reside in Candy Land. So if you're expecting fluff or political correctness, move on.
Plusses • Immense leadership potential. A strong Cardinals pedigree; earned respect as a catcher here from 2000-2004. Could keep much of a veteran coaching staff together. Familiar with current Cardinals and has a good handle on their minor-league system. Popular with fans. Former teammates have called Mozeliak to urge Matheny's hiring. Has the respect of key veteran players. A Mozeliak ally, Matheny would work well with all branches of the baseball operation.
Questions • What makes Matheny think that he can walk into Tony La Russa's old office and take over one of the great jobs in North American professional sports after paying no dues as a full-time coach or manager in the minors or majors? Has he earned this? As Matheny makes mistakes while growing into such a big job, how many wins will it cost the 2012 Cardinals? Will Matheny have credibility issues if he's viewed as being controlled by management? Does he know how to run a game?
Why he'd get the job • Mozeliak believes in him and deems that Catch 22 is worth the gamble.
Why he wouldn't • Think A.J. Hinch.
Plusses • Is a loyal Cardinal who logged many years as player and coach with the big-league club, learning about managing by being near Whitey Herzog, Joe Torre and La Russa. That's an impressive baseball education. He's close to Albert Pujols, who could be more inclined to stay (provided that the money is right) if Oquendo lands the post.
Questions • The perception is that Oquendo wouldn't stand up to Pujols or Yadier Molina. Too many fans and players have watched Pujols ignore Oquendo's stop signs at third base. Oquendo's best relationships have been with the team's Latino delegation, which is fine, but can he lead all 25 men? How are his communication skills? Does he have the presence to fill the big chair, or is he a career coach? Could Oquendo work well with the player-development side as part of a Mozeliak initiative to have a united and fully integrated operation?
Why he'd get the job • If Mozeliak concludes he needs someone more experienced than Matheny.
Why he wouldn't • If his time as a "hot" candidate has passed.
Plusses • In eight seasons in Boston, Francona won two World Series. And only the Yankees won more regular-season games than the Red Sox. An experienced leader, accustomed to big-stage games, pressure and expectations. Has handled the grind of a tough market. Has developed a rep as a player's manager. If he's still energized, Francona would be well acclimated to take over a World Series champ managed by La Russa.
Questions • It was only one bad month out of an otherwise impressive eight-season run, but the 2011 Red Sox collapsed in September to trash their huge lead in the AL wild-card race. It was reported that Francona (A) lost the clubhouse; (B) was affected by taking pain-killing medication; (C) was stressed by a strain in his marriage. Is Francona burned out? Does he really want the Cubs job instead?
Why he'd get the job • Easily the most qualified.
Why he wouldn't • If Mozeliak fears that Francona's life is a reality show waiting to happen.
Plusses • Instant credibility in the clubhouse. A Hall of Fame player who refused to take a short-cut to a big-league job, he headed to the minors to learn how to be a coach and a manager. That's honorable and admirable. Players who played for him in the minors say Sandberg runs a good game and knows how to deal with players. Cubs fans would hate this.
Questions • OK, if Sandberg is such a marvelous candidate, then why have the Cubs declined to hire him in their last two manager searches? Sandberg does have a quirky personality. He doesn't know Cardinals players and isn't familiar with the St. Louis minor-league system and the people who run it. Would Cards fans accept a Cubs legend as the new boss?
Why he'd get the job • Is ready after a diligent apprenticeship and would bring star power and Hall of Fame cachet to the assignment.
Why he wouldn't • Lacks a working knowledge of the Cardinals.
Plusses • Made a remarkably fast rise as a coach and manager in the Chicago White Sox system. Super Joe, the former Cardinals utility man, made a positive impression during his time here by playing the game the right way. Veteran White Sox who spent time in Class AA on injury-rehab assignments came away impressed by McEwing's leadership and ability to run a game.
Questions • Too much, too soon? Would he have a hard time winning over veteran Cardinals who know him as a scrappy utility guy?
Why he'd get the job • If Mozeliak takes a chance on an underrated candidate that has real potential and more experience than Matheny.
Why he wouldn't • If Super Joe is ready, why didn't the White Sox hire him as manager instead of Robin Ventura?
Plusses • Organization man. Has made friends during his time as a coach and manager in the Cardinals' system. Has done a solid job at Class AAA Memphis.
Questions • Players seemed to like playing for him, but scouts we've talked to didn't see anything notable about his managing in Memphis.
Why he would get the job • Can't think of a compelling reason.
Why he wouldn't • It's easier to give Maloney a coaching job on the big-league staff.
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We were saddened by the passing of St. Louis sports legend Easy Ed Macauley. But the sadness is lifted by the realization that Ed truly led a wonderful life, complete in every way. He was a great basketball player at St. Louis U., a Hall of Fame NBA player, a positive presence in the community, a great family man, a great Catholic. Easy Ed realized all of his dreams. This was a special man who led a special life.
I'm still rooting for Tom Stillman to get the Blues. We need local ownership. ... Rick Majerus will have a good basketball team at SLU this season; looking forward to it. ... St. Louisan Scott Van Slyke has been added to the LA Dodgers' 40-man roster. ... Congrats to KSDK's Frank Cusumano for winning the Emmy award as the best local sports anchor. ... The St. Louis Tiger Club's fall tailgate is Tuesday night (6 p.m.) at Harpo's in Chesterfield. Special guests: football recruiting expert Danny Heitert and Mizzou broadcaster Gary Link. Admission is free.
While spending time in London with his Arsenal soccer club, Rams owner Stan Kroenke made some interesting comments that can be left open to interpretation:
"London is a great place and a great market," Kroenke told reporters. "Comparably in the U.S., you would talk about Los Angeles and New York. There was a study done in the States and if you ask any 20- to 30-year-old person where they would most like to live if they didn't live where they presently lived, they will tell you LA and New York. If you ask players in the U.S. they'll say being in LA or New York is a pretty good place to be for 20-30 year olds. So those markets to me have an inherent advantage as far as recruiting. Maybe that's just me, but I think London is a great place to be. I think, long-term, if you want to attract players, it is a great place to me."