HOUSTON - JUNE 07: Left fielder Lance Berkman #12 of the St. Louis Cardinals is congratulated by third base coach Jose Oquendo #11 after hitting a two run home run to left center field in the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on June 7, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Monday, we looked at three candidates brought up by someone in the media who look to be the most likely candidates to fill the Houston managerial spot permanently. Today, we're going to continue this look through candidates by scouring the St. Louis organization for possible ideas on who could take over.
Why St. Louis? Because new general manager Jeff Luhnow is from there and has already hired a bunch of former people from that organization. He's likely to want to go back there when filling out his coaching staff. One guy in particular that may not get any mention is former bullpen coach Mark Mason, who was fired for "his misgivings about the integrity of the player development pipeline." Luhnow cannot have taken kindly to that.
So, without further ado, here's the candidates from the Cardinals.
Jose Oquendo, St. Louis third base coach
The best choice from this staff, Oquendo has been a popular choice in managerial searches for a while now. Last winter, he was all but assured the job to succeed Tony La Russa before being passed over for Mike Matheney. In that, he's got something in common with Ryne Sandberg, who also got passed over for a job last year.
There's a lot to like with Oquendo and only one thing not to like. Let's deal with that first: Oquendo has never been a major league manager. If Houston is looking for someone who has previous experience in the majors, that's not him. Oquendo managed for a year in the minors in the New York Penn League, but has been first bench coach and then third base coach for the major league Cardinals since about 1999.
However, if they want someone who can inspire young players, Oquendo would be a great choice. By all accounts, he was held in high regard by all of the Cards infielders he worked with, including Albert Pujols. He helped them grow in their positions and makes players want to work hard for him.
Not to mention he gained a ton of experience sitting on that staff for all those years. In this article by Jon Morosi, he wonders if Dave Duncan would have made Oquendo's transition easier. Let's turn that on its side for a minute and wonder if that's an explanation as to why Joe Pettini wasn't named interim manager.
Maybe he's going to be the bench coach for Oquendo and help give him that experienced aide which Duncan could have been. It doesn't rule out a Dave Duncan return, mind you, but it would give Houston a nice St. Louis base to build upon next year.
Also, he's from Puerto Rico and works with infielders. Wait, let me check my notes...isn't there someone else from...Puerto...hmmm, not finding anything. Could've sworn there was an infielder in the system from there. Huh.
Only downside here is we can't be sure of how into the advanced metrics Oquendo might be. TLR wasn't much for them, so we can't assume he learned it from him. However, there's no telling on whether he was Luhnow-ized or not.
Oh, and did I mention he actually pinch hit in a Cardinals 2009 spring training game, fouling pitches off and working a walk. Guess he could be a player-manager in a pinch, too, which would be very cool.
Tony La Russa, former St. Louis manager
No, but really. Hahahahahhaha.
Seriously, though. How much of a chance can TLR have if Luhnow admitted to second-guessing him at times when he was in St. Louis? He was still very complimentary, but still.
I've heard that the job is his if he wants it, but I also heard that Mills would get fired after the All-Star break and that Milo was going to get a lifetime contract just before he announced he was retiring at the end of the year. So, you know, grain of salt and all that.
John Mabry, St. Louis assistant hitting coach
This is a little thinner, since Mabry was brought in the year after Luhnow left. He doesn't have a background in player development, but he is heavily involved with the video work and other things hitting-wise that Mark McGwire doesn't do.
That might mean he's got a mind for the analytics and could fit into this new system. Plus, he's a relative unknown, which all the cognoscenti now are saying is the route Houston most likely will take. Still, it feels pretty thin. I'd think McGwire will get a shot faster than Mabry.
Dave Duncan, former St. Louis pitching coach
The last of the easy answers, Duncan has been suggested as a candidate on this site for, oh, about three years. I believe he was even a guy looked at last time the job came open, before Brad Mills was hired.
There is little evidence Duncan wants the job, though, which makes it harder to say whether he would even interview here. But, he would definitely be an asset working with young pitchers. In that job, Houston would almost be cornering the market on quality pitching knowledge, after adding Mike Fast and his Pitch F/X magic.
The same theory with Oquendo and Pettini works here with Duncan. If he's put on the bench, wouldn't it make sense to have his buddy Pettini stay on as bench coach and help him with his inexperience. Thus, it makes sense for Pettini not to be given the interim job.
If there was going to be a front office who bucked traditional baseball theory on not hiring pitching coaches as managers, it's this one. Still, Duncan feels like a reach and I'd be shocked if he even interviews in Houston.