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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Cardinals minor matters: November 16

Following are links to a few Sunday newspaper articles of particular interest to me as a St. Louis Cardinals watcher.

Keeping good men down

The Detroit News has a nice article on the Tigers’ version of Ron “Pop” Warner, rising managerial candidate Tom Brookens. Detroit manager Jim Leyland is given props for hiring up-and-comer Brookens, the former Detroit third baseman, to his 2010 coaching staff. Brookens had moved up the Tigers’ minor league managerial food chain, one level at a time.

The article delves into the rarely-discussed fear many managers apparently have in employing their potential replacement. Leyland was offered as an example of having been blocked this way, as the rising star in the Tigers’ system was passed over for openings by then-manager Sparky Anderson in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

In contrast, Tony La Russa, who did give Leyland his first MLB coaching job in his Chicago days in 1982, was called “confident and secure” for initially hiring Leyland.

I find that characterization most interesting given that in the last 20 years, La Russa has groomed a total of zero MLB managers. Current third base coach Jose Oquendo has a chance to make the big step, but seems to be getting fewer external interviews for openings this winter compared to last.

La Russa’s staff continuity means deserving candidates on the way up like Warner either have to wait or consider leaving the organization. The last promotion of a minor league coach/instructor/coordinator to St. Louis was Joe Pettini in 2002. Mark McGwire’s recent hire as major league hitting coach was obviously a very unique situation.

I looked into the details of La Russa’s coaches back in May in a two-part series: “La Russa’s coaching legacy”.

Ozzie wants to manage/coach

A logical follow up is to check in on the anti-La Russa protégé, Ozzie Smith. Having managed in this past summer’s Futures Game put The Wizard in control in one Busch Stadium dugout, for three hours at least.

In Springfield, Illinois for an autograph signing session on Saturday, Smith told the State Journal-Register this:

“I will (manage or coach) at some point in time when the time is right,” said Smith, who is 54. “It’s a natural transition to move from the field. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way for me. I look forward to the day when I can.”

It is unclear at what level Ozzie wants to manage. One might assume it is at the major league level. Attempting to do so without minor league grooming would seem to be a big step for anyone, even a Hall of Famer. Have to wonder how he would get along with his players after carrying his La Russa grudge for 13 years running.

Coaching would seem more reasonable. As a point of comparison, Oquendo has only one season of minor league instructing and another one managing, but has since added 11 seasons on the major league staff.

Mr. Rogers loves Boras

A Sunday column from the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers is always good for getting my blood moving. His current lovefest is for Scott Boras, apparently because the agent recruits the best players and sells them to the highest bidder. Now, that is quite the angle.

Rogers rubs the Yankees’ World Series win in the Red Sox’ collective noses by pointing out the Bostonians passed on last year’s Matt Holliday – then-free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira. He paints Cards GM John Mozeliak as this year’s Boras stooge.

What fools those Red Sox were in offering a mere $170 million when the Yanks bid $180! Now, I am not a big fan of Boston’s big-spending ways either, but after having been burned by Boras more than once, at least they appear to be learning.

Here’s hoping Mo has as much backbone as the Sox did in drawing a line and sticking to it.

Pirates replace Reds in Florida State League

The Pittsburgh Pirates have received approval to purchase the Cincinnati Reds’ A-Advanced Florida State League team, which was in Sarasota, Florida, and move it to their spring home in Bradenton.

The Reds needed to make a change in the FSL after relocating their spring camp to Goodyear, Arizona starting in 2010. Their former facility in Sarasota has been taken over by the Orioles, whose A-Advanced club is the Frederick Keys of the Carolina League.

To complete the deal with Pittsburgh, Cincinnati has moved their Single-A affiliate to the Pirates’ former home in Lynchburg, Virginia. The Pirates had been affiliated with the Lynchburg Hillcats of the Carolina League for the last 15 years.

The Palm Beach Cardinals compete in the FSL, where they have been since 1966 with the exception of six years in the Carolina League. They fielded clubs in Prince William in 1997 and 1998 and in Potomac from 1999 through 2002. Details on the Cardinals FSL/CL league history can be found here.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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