Think about it. When was the last time a St. Louis Cardinals coach or front office member was directly named to a major league manager or general manager position in another organization?
For as much as St. Louis has enjoyed consistent success under the current ownership group, it has not been a springboard from which future big league leaders made their final external leap.
Funny, but I haven’t read the “Harry Potter” digs about Luhnow in print for some time now. The 45-year-old is getting the last laugh at those who derided him over his last eight years leading player development for the St. Louis Cardinals and building the necessary base of experiences to take over his own organization.
As a result of Houston’s move, the Cardinals need to make a crucial appointment (or series of them) to replace him. Luhnow was the head of their amateur scouting and international functions as well as the First-Year Player Draft. He stepped out of his day-to-day supervisory role of the farm system last September, turning that over to his lieutenant, John Vuch.
Luhnow first joined the Cardinals in late 2003 and began his efforts in the establishment of player evaluation methods at both the amateur and professional levels. From the start, he clashed with traditionalists in the organization. This undercurrent of discord eventually led to the ouster of general manager Walt Jocketty following the 2007 season.
Born and raised in Mexico City and fluent in Spanish, Luhnow was an ideal choice to revitalize the club’s stagnant Latin American program, which he picked up in 2004. Scouting and development successes include Eduardo Sanchez, Carlos Martinez and Oscar Taveras with more in the pipeline.
Beginning in 2005, Luhnow directed the Cardinals drafts, during which time his classes were often recognized as among the better in the game. The players also later delivered at the big league level. For example, eight major leaguers drafted and developed during his tenure were active for the Cardinals in the 2011 post-season. They included key contributors Jaime Garcia, Allen Craig, Jon Jay and Lance Lynn.
Luhnow added player development responsibilities in 2006. He had a key role in the system’s successes in the minor leagues. Results include the best system-wide record across the minors in 2010 and five minor league team championships, all the way from rookie ball to Triple-A.
A few have suggested the Luhnow loss might be felt more acutely by the Cardinals than that of Albert Pujols. I would not go that far, but Luhnow clearly proved his detractors wrong while leaving some big shoes to fill.