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

As the Duncan (re-)turns?

The indefinite waiting to learn of future plans has moved from the manager of St. Louis Cardinals to pitching coach Dave Duncan.

When we last left the Dave Duncan situation, it was prior to the announcement of Tony La Russa’s decision to return for a 16th year at the helm of the St. Louis Cardinals. The pitching coach’s widely-reported remarks included the following.

“The ideal situation would not be to coach in St. Louis for one more year then find another place for two more years,” Duncan told the Post-Dispatch on October 15. “The ideal situation would be to coach three years in the same place.”

Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan (AP/James A. Finley)Since then, La Russa came back, but only on a one-year deal that may have signaled some indecision in whether or not to offer Duncan his desired three-year commitment. Then, there was the most uncomfortable firing of Duncan’s long-time lieutenant, bullpen coach Marty Mason.

While it was stated that Duncan was ok with the Mason move, I don’t believe he has not been quoted publicly on the matter. It is hard to imagine the no-nonsense pitching coach didn’t have strong feelings about the highly-public sacking.

When La Russa met with the media in St. Louis last Wednesday to discuss his own decision, he seemed to indicate that Duncan’s choice was also very near.

Mark (McGwire) might decide tomorrow. ‘Dunc’ might decide tomorrow,” La Russa told the Post-Dispatch on the 20th. “But they’re coming at it from different places.”

Perhaps there is nothing more to the delay than the Cardinals wanting to announce their 2011 staff all at once. Still, even if Duncan has no intentions of moving elsewhere, others are very interested in him.

Just about anywhere across baseball, whether the pitching coach job is open or not, the name “Dave Duncan” is being touted as a possible savior. Check any team-oriented message board on the internet from the Yankees on down and you’ll likely find an “I don’t know if we could pull this off, but what about hiring Dave Duncan?” thread.

Though no official interest or interviews have been reported to my knowledge, the persistent buzz includes a couple of the game’s most storied and deep-pocketed clubs.

One prestigious job that is officially coming open today, Monday, is with the Boston Red Sox. Fan interest in hiring Duncan to replace Toronto’s new manager Rick Farrell as the Red Sox’ pitching coach has already made the Boston Globe, though the idea was discouraged.

One team that currently has a pitching coach in Dan Warthen, the New York Mets, is looking to replace both their general manager and the field manager. At least some think scoring Duncan is possible, too. A prominent Mets-focused site mentions Duncan’s past relationship with Sandy Alderson, one of two front-runners to win the team’s GM spot. The article also notes concern over how son Chris Duncan was treated by the organization and a desire by Dave to have a greater say in system-wide pitching instruction as reasons that the pitching coach might bolt.

The longer the Duncan delay continues, the wider the speculation about his plans grow. Even if the McGwire situation remains unsettled, the Cardinals would be very wise to get the uncertainty over Duncan’s future off the table.

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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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