The Cardinal Nation blog

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

Is Oquendo on the managerial carousel?

Is St. Louis Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo a good candidate to move up?

Tony La Russa and Jose Oquendo (AP/Tom Gannam)Two years ago, St. Louis Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo was a hot managerial candidate, securing interviews for jobs in San Diego and Seattle that went to others. Since then, his name seemed to drop out of the news.

For example, in an article at SI.com entitled “Assessing managerial carousel,” Jon Heyman called out a wide variety of current skipper candidates for the numerous available openings. Heyman cited 29 names to be exact, from Tim Bogar to Tim Wallach, but not once did Oquendo’s name appear.

This article out of Seattle includes a pining for Tony La Russa in the M’s head job along with a well-organized list of known candidates for the six open spots across MLB. With new management in Seattle since his 2008 interview, Jose is not included this time, nor is his name linked with any of the other openings.

The dry spell may have changed earlier this week when Pittsburgh-focused writer John Perrotto mentioned in a Baseball Prospectus article that he expected Oquendo would receive an interview with the Pirates. I have yet to see any confirmation elsewhere, however.

Perhaps the reason “Secret Weapon’s” name hasn’t appeared in conjunction with other jobs is the assumption that he is the heir apparent to eventually replace La Russa with the Cardinals.

Another possibility is that La Russa is a mold-breaker and as such, maybe one of his closest disciples just isn’t what others want. Despite all the winning, the manager clearly has his detractors as well.

Oquendo recently received a great compliment from Marlins interim manager Edwin Rodriguez. His long-time friend and countryman achieved a milestone that Oquendo had hoped to experience himself – becoming MLB’s first manager to have been born in Puerto Rico.

“Oquendo is in Puerto Rico for Winter Ball, so I’d talk with him a lot,” Rodriguez told MLB.com. “He’s always giving me pretty good insights on how Tony would handle situations. Not only the in-game situations, but how he handled preparation, and how he handles the staff.”

So, as long as a La Russa-style strategist is wanted, Oquendo is your man. No Dave Duncan clone would be included in the deal, however.

In a two-part piece last year, I researched La Russa’s coaching staffs since his early days in Chicago and found surprisingly few that worked under Tony later became skippers in their own right.

Even the thought of Oquendo succeeding La Russa is far from a sure thing. The rumor mill has the Cardinals preferring to hire an experienced man – whenever the time to address the need arises, of course.

Speaking of which, I wonder why some are surprised that La Russa is perceived to be taking his time to tell the Cards whether or not he will accept their offer to return in 2011. For me the reason is simple – he wants to see if there is a better deal out there. After all, any contact during the season would have been considered tampering.

One year ago, La Russa announced his return on October 26. It was 16 days after St. Louis was swept by the Dodgers in the National League Division Series, though that time may have been elongated due to the controversial hiring of Mark McGwire as hitting coach, announced on the same day. It also marked La Russa’s first-ever one year contract with the Cardinals – done at the manager’s request. He is currently at 11 days and counting since the disappointing 2010 season concluded.

With Tony at age 66, less than two seasons away from reaching second on the all-time managerial wins list and being able to enjoy at least one more summer of Albert Pujols, it would all seem to signal a continuation of the marriage for a 16th year.

In the meantime, Oquendo waits for his chance, whether here or there.

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