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

Oquendo’s return good for Cardinals, maybe not for his managerial aspirations

Jose Oquendo, thought by many to be the heir-apparent to 16-year manager Tony La Russa, learned that was not the case when first-time coach Mike Matheny was named instead of him to succeed La Russa and become the 49th manager in the history of the St. Louis Cardinals.

One of five candidates interviewed but not selected, Oquendo was faced with a major career decision this week as a result. Should he remain with the organization that has been his only home in 15 years of coaching as well as his final ten years as a player or should he move on?

To their credit, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak and Matheny made it clear during Monday’s managerial press conference that they hoped Oquendo would return in 2012.

The Puerto Rican native’s experience as third base coach and infield instructor, not to mention his Spanish-language skills, had clear value to the organization. So would be his continuity on Matheny’s new staff as the team’s second longest-serving coach after pitching master Dave Duncan.

Just after his interview with the Cardinals search committee last week, Oquendo said the following to the Post-Dispatch.

“This is home, If nothing works out, hopefully, I can stay around and coach here. Hopefully, they like what I’ve done in the past.

“Sometimes, a new (manager) might want to bring in a new guy to coach. I’ll have to wait and see what decision they make. If I’m not back, then I have to find another way to bring in income.”

Job security seemed an important objective.

By taking this approach, Oquendo may have given the Cardinals the easy way out. They did not have to name him manager to continue to benefit from his contributions. They could hire another manager and have the best of both worlds, which is of course precisely what they did.

Further, while Oquendo appeared happy to take the top job had it been offered, he did not create the impression that he was particularly aggressive in pursuing it and was overly concerned if he did not get it.

“If it’s not going to be me, I’m not going to be saying, ‘Why not? Why not me?’ If it happens, it happens,” he told the Post-Dispatch.

Oquendo, 48, lives in St. Louis County with his wife, four children and granddaughter and is apparently comfortable there. After a quarter of a century of work with the Cardinals, setting deep roots in the community is understandable, but it may not be the best career move to remain.

Though Oquendo had also been considered for managerial openings in San Diego, Seattle and with the New York Mets in recent years, he has reportedly never been offered the top uniformed job.

If he was primarily focused on becoming a major league manager, this would have been the time to thank the Cardinals for the good times and move on to another MLB staff to better position himself for a future managerial shot elsewhere.

By remaining, I think Oquendo has explicitly limited his future MLB managerial opportunities and indicated he is content playing a supporting, rather than a lead role.

After all, since the organization that knows him best chose not to give him the top job, would another club now seriously consider hiring him off the Cardinals staff? Previously, Oquendo had the mystique of being perceived by some as the one chosen and specially groomed to follow La Russa. Any benefit that provided him is now gone.

Of course, as long as Oquendo is comfortable with the ramifications of this week’s decisions made by the Cardinals and himself, the club should be the winner over the long haul.

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27 Responses to “Oquendo’s return good for Cardinals, maybe not for his managerial aspirations”

  1. CardinalFan4Ever says:

    I really like Oquendo as the 3rd base coach, very aggressive (even if half the team runs through his stop signs). Always have, always will.

    Question(s) for anyone though..

    Just how important is he to the team? Could the Cardinals replaced him without much fanfare, or would it be a big blow to the team if would have went elsewhere? I have heard he is something of a guru teaching fundamental ball (and evidently The-Riot didn’t attend those classes). Do you think it has anything to do with leveraging the AP situation any since I hear they are close friends?

    • blingboy says:

      There was nothing wrong with Theriot’s defensive fundamentals, CC. He just stunk. Nothing Oquendo could do about that.

    • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

      He participates in AP’s hitting regiment…….inside the bubble……… could his retention be involved in ongoing processes????? unquestionably……….. is it a postural ploy by BD/MO………undoubtedly……is this a good thing???????? depends on how it works out………….

    • RCWarrior says:

      My opinion is Jose was asked back because Albert wants him there and there is no doubt in my mind that somebody somewhere has made it known that Albert would like to see Jose back on the staff. Albert knows he will be back in St. Louis and so does everybody else. That is unless the Cardinals front office did something to buck him……which they won’t.

      But Jose is a great baseball instructor. Its not like he has been given a job and is a horse shit coach. The guys knows infield play. But that being said the team would be fine without Jose as a coach. He was not the glue that brought the team together.

  2. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    Brian…….your assumption that other organizations would mirror St. Louis’s vetting priorities and valuations…..I find lacking………… He is just as apt to called to fulfill someones need as before…..in someways of looking at this……this snub could enhance his opportunities……that remains to be seen…..

  3. Kansasbirdman says:

    If AP moves on to gr$$ner pastures in 2012- Berkman at first and Craig in right is the cw? Did I hear correctly that Descalso will get the look at second?

    If no AP that opens up $ for a top SS, depending on who is left on the market.

    If AP is back, where does Allen Craig fit in? Can’t descalso play short and Craig may get a look at second? Does that leave our D up the middle lacking?

    • Brian Walton says:

      Craig will get his ABs no matter what role he plays. The odds of Berkman and Holliday playing an entire season injury-free are low. We’ll have to see if Matheny is as wild and crazy as TLR was about playing guys out of position.

      • blingboy says:

        Since I read your ‘wild and crazy’ comment, Brian, I can’t shake the immage of Matheny sitting at the end of the dugout wearing a Steve Martin arrow on his head. With Dave and Aldrete crowding down the other way.

  4. crdswmn says:

    I really didn’t think Oquendo had much of a chance–too much TLR taint. I know I go against the grain when I say this but I don’t think TLR was as popular with upper management as many people think, at least not in the last few seasons. It’s just a hunch, nothing more.

    • RCWarrior says:

      TLR was popular because of Albert. Albert was TLR’s power. No Albert, no power.

      • Bw52 says:

        RCW-and winning had nothing to do with it.You been reading too much Western fiction.

        • RCWarrior says:

          ha ha, unfortunately I know more than I wish I knew about Tony BW, and reading WC has nothing to do with it. Tony’s a smart guy and wields power like any other power hungry guy to get what he wants. Tony used Albert to get what he wanted most of the time. You got to keep the talent happy and Albert is the talent.

          I believe Tony does a great job of befriending the better players, lets them have free run of the mansion so to speak, then they will do anything for him. The guys no dummy.

      • blingboy says:

        Was he less popular before Albert? With McGwire. Or before that, with Mac and Conseco? Kingman? Fisk? I don’t dispute that the guy who makes it possible to win gives the manager power, and that Albert’s special status would give the manager special power. That seems like a fact of nature. Tony’s longevity might have to do with his ability to get rid of potential King-makers who would want a different King. Rolen, for example. In the next couple years, it will fall to Mo to purge any anti-Matheney element that emerges among the difference makers. Whether he does or not will fortell Mike’s future.

  5. easy says:

    I think you may be right. Certainly they appreciated TLR’s ability to win baseball games but they knew they had to cede him power that they’d rather not. They also knew that, to some extent, he thwarted their desire to go with younger, cheaper players. I don’t think that Matheny is necessarily just a yes man but he’s proven his ability to work with Mo and the FO. Jose, whose role models were two charismatic managers might have been seen as more of a risk.

  6. blingboy says:

    As to the speed and small ball game: If Greene makes the team, and If he’s the everyday shortstop, ad if he shows enough stick to hold down the leadoff spot, and if whoever proves adept at the #2 spot, then I could see Matheney going with some SB attempts and some hit and runs. But that would just be top of the order. The whole middle of the order will be sluggers, with or without Albert. We’ll bludgeon the opposition or die trying.

    The more I think about it, the more I feel like what we could really use, more so than Albert or Reyes, would be a top end starter. Same money. Not meant as a slap at Albert, but I feel like we will score enough runs even without him. But the rotation may or may not hold up. Wainy has a high probability of being at least good, probably great, but that has yet to be proven. Carp will have good days and bad just like in 2011, with the probability being more bad and less good. Garcia should be generally solid except once the grind causes fatigue to set in, then he won’t go deep. Lohse will be a 4 or a 5, with some nice outings and some not so nice. Miller could be a top end guy by later in the year, maybe, and Lynn/Dickson/and eyechart could provide a 4 or 5 guy. Maybe a three. But I don’t like relying solely on Wainy as our only every 5th day stopper option. That could go horribly wrong. Of course, then what would happen is we’d have a couple middle of the order guys go down and bemoan not having Albert. That’s why Mo pulls down the big bucks.

  7. JumboShrimp says:

    In this essay, Brian offers opinions about Jose Oquendo:
    “it may not be the best career move to remain.”
    “if primarily focused on becoming a major league manager, now would have been a good time to thank the Cards and move on.”
    “By remaining, I think Oquendo has explicitly limited his future MLB managerial opportunities…”
    “would another club seriously consider hiring him off the Cardinals staff?”

    There are plenty of other ways to think about this.
    Dave Duncan has been coaching a long time. Few think Dave should move on, to get ahead. So what is wrong with Jose also continuing to serve the Cardinals? Nothing.
    Why should coaching for another team help Oquendo become a manager? Lots of coaches move around and never make manager anywhere.
    By showing an unselfish commitment to serving his employer, maybe Oquendo has actually added to his credibility as a prospective hire around the fraternity of baseball, either as coach or manager.
    Jim Riggleman oddly bailed on the Nationals in mid-season. Jim was not on Mo’s interview list, despite Cardinals roots. Employers like reliable guys who do not quit. Oquendos more than Rigglemans.

    • RCWarrior says:

      Jumbo, I must admit that I feel you have a unique intellect. The kind that could count through 5 decks of cards but must purchase his underwear from KMart. You know what I mean? 5 minutes to Wapner. :)

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Why pay more for underwear? Everyday low prices sounds good.

        Bernie sounded upbeat about Oquendo. Me too. There is no dishonor in being 3rd base coach of the greatest team in MLB.
        Jose was a team-mate of Mike Matheny. Ditto Dave Duncan. He likes them, they like him.

        A funny thing about baseball. Guys have to compete against one another, but once they make the team, then they are well served to support one another. There is a balance between competition and cooperation. There is nothing dishonorable about not getting the manager’s job. Nobody has to leave town all dejected. We still love you Jose. Thanks for your continued service! Proud of you!

        And how about Dave Duncan? All those years with TLR, but Dave soldiers on, without Tony. Dave must love his job. Maybe he can become the new George Kissell and just teach baseball for decades more. Love you Dave!

  8. blingboy says:

    Calander of events:
    Nov. 18, 2011
    Day to file reserve lists for all Major and Minor League levels.
    Nov. 21, 2011
    AL Most Valuable Player Award announced
    Nov. 22, 2011
    NL Most Valuable Player Award announced
    Nov. 23, 2011
    Last date for former club to offer salary arbitration to ranked XX(B) free agents in order to be eligible for compensation. Deadline is midnight.
    Dec. 1, 2011
    Last day to request outright waivers to assign player prior to Rule 5 Draft
    Dec. 5, 2011
    5 p.m. ET is last time to outright a player prior to the Rule 5 Draft
    Dec. 7, 2011
    Last date for player who declared free agency to accept an arbitration offer from former club. Deadline is midnight ET
    Dec. 5-8, 2011
    Baseball Winter Meetings, Dallas
    Dec. 8, 2011
    Major League Rule 5 Draft, Dallas
    Dec. 12, 2011
    Last date to tender contracts is midnight ET

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