The Mechanical Elephant In The Room: What Will Albert Pujols Do?

Senior Writer
11.01.11 6 Comments

The St. Louis Cardinals won Game 7 of the World Series on Friday to secure the franchise’s 11th title (11 in ’11 is not ironic, despite what Shane Victorino thinks) and they had a whopping 48 hours or so to enjoy it before the entire world crumbled around them. Yesterday morning, Tony LaRussa announced his retirement after 33 years of managing and three World Series wins (16 and 2 with the Cardinals, respectively). Instead of celebrating an incredibly improbable championship run, Cardinals players and fans now wonder, “Who will be the next manager and will it affect whether or not Albert Pujols stays?”

Only one man – St. Louis GM John Mozeliak – knows the answer to that first question, and only one man – Albert Pujols – knows the answer to the second question. Granted, his agent, wife and kids probably know, but he’s the only man who matters for right now. That doesn’t mean, though, that every sports writer, blogger and Internet commenter on Earth won’t make predictions, some of them accurate and most of them way off base. First up, former Cardinal and the grittiest shortstop ever, David Eckstein.

“Albert would stay if (Jose) Oquendo got the job.”

“My initial reaction (after learning of La Russa’s retirement) was, ‘It needs to be Jose Oquendo,’” Eckstein said. “When you played for Tony, you didn’t want to disappoint him. When I was playing infield for Jose, I didn’t want to disappoint him. I know how much he has put into this. When you can get a player to play outside of himself, for someone else, that’s when you get the best out of a player.”

(Via Fox Sports)

LaRussa has long lobbied for Oquendo to get his shot at managing a big league ballclub, and he certainly has a nice foundation and situation in St. Louis. He makes sense as a replacement, as the fans and players love him. But that really doesn’t mean much of anything.

Mozeliak reportedly has a list of names of managerial candidates that he has kept for 3 years because he knew this day would eventually become. If I had to guess – keeping in mind that even as a Cardinals fan, I’m no better than any of the other clueless schmucks out there – that list looks something like this:

1. Jose Oquendo – Dave Duncan, who is under contract through 2012, says he wants to stay with the Cardinals despite rumors that he would take a season off to be with his sick wife. I imagine that would heavily favor Oquendo.

2. Mike Matheny – Beloved former Cardinals player, who, much like Dave Duncan, is fantastic at managing pitchers and would make a hell of a protege for Dunc. He’s also cemented in the St. Louis community.

3. Terry Francona – The popular guy who should probably take a season off.

4. Joe Maddon – The longshot, as he has a year left on his Tampa contract, but he’s apparently a lifelong Cardinals fan.

5. Chris Maloney/Pop Warner – AAA and AA managers, respectively.

6. Maybe Ryne Sandberg just to be dicks about it.

Then add any number of retreads and “big names” after that and you’re on your way to becoming a sports analyst. My guess is it’s Oquendo, but I don’t think it’s necessarily because he’s the “make or break” guy to keep Pujols.

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