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Oquendo is right where he belongs

If you are like me, you have watched the progression of Jose Oquendo‘s career with the St. Louis Cardinals over the past three decades.

After being acquired from the New York Mets while still just 21 years of age in 1985, the “Secret Weapon” became a fixture over ten seasons of play with St. Louis, including two pennant-winning campaigns. Upon retiring from his middle infield duties at the tender age of 32, Oquendo remained with the organization. He seamlessly moved into coaching in the minor leagues, culminating with one year as a manager. That was in 1998 in the New York-Penn League.

1999 marked Oquendo’s first coaching job in St. Louis as he became the bench coach under manager Tony La Russa. The bench coach job is often thought of as the unofficial assistant manager and a logical launching pad into consideration for the top uniformed job with one of the 30 MLB clubs. At the time, Oquendo was only 35 years of age and his star seemed on the rise.

Instead, after just one season in the role, Oquendo moved into the third base coaching box, where he remains today, 13 years later. He was replaced as bench coach by Mark DeJohn. I had always wondered why. Not that third base is a bad job, but it seemed a sideways move at best.

As relayed through a recent article penned by Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch, Oquendo answered my long-standing question.

Oquendo admitted that being La Russa’s bench coach was too stressful for him.

“That’s why I moved,” to third base, Oquendo told Hummel. “When I first got here and he had me as his bench coach, he started screaming and yelling and I said, ‘I can’t take this. I’m going to pop a (blood) vessel. I’ve got to move away so I can relax.”’

Oquendo’s candor is refreshing as well as a bit surprising. Granted, 1999 was a long time ago. He has had time to grow since. In fact, before being among those interviewed to replace La Russa last fall, he had been in the running for the top job with San Diego, Seattle and the Mets in recent years as well as managing Team Puerto Rico in several international competitions.

Still, Oquendo acknowledging that he was once uncomfortable with the pressures of being a bench coach does not feel like a positive in terms of evaluating his competitiveness as a potential manager.

The man who had been Cardinals bench coach over the last decade, Joe Pettini, was recently quoted about his time in the role in an article from Houston’s beatwriter Brian McTaggart. For Pettini, being La Russa’s deputy often felt like traveling down a one-way street.

“Tony is a Hall of Fame manager and he was great to work for, but as the bench coach for Tony, sometimes you’re limited in what you have to do,” Pettini said. “It’s not like you can ask questions or ask for his input throughout the game…”

Just as he did for 10 years as St. Louis’ bench coach, Pettini is managing the Astros spring training camp.

“I’m going to be in charge of outlining the schedule,” Pettini said recently. “It’s still Brad’s program (Houston manager Brad Mills) and his way he wants things to be done, and my job will be to help outline it and make sure the schedules go up and the meetings run smoothly and everybody knows what’s going on and everybody is on the same page.”

Though Oquendo was one of the six finalists interviewed to replace La Russa, Mike Matheny received the assignment instead. Former assistant hitting coach Mike Aldrete was elevated to replace Pettini and serve as Matheny’s bench coach.

Oquendo made it clear to Hummel that he is very happy remaining in his familiar role at third base with St. Louis, providing a low-stress, on-field bridge from the Whitey Herzog era, through La Russa’s days and now into the Matheny years.

All things considered, it seems the best option for both the coach and his team.

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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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41 Responses to “Oquendo is right where he belongs”

  1. Kansasbirdman says:

    Some give TLR too much credit. Calling him a “super genius” is a hyperbole of hyperbolic proportions.

    Others give him far too little credit. Saying that he lucked his way through the 2011 season while suffering from dementia is even a more outrageous fallacy.

    There are too many variables strung out over too many years to delve into in evaluating his performance to have a qualitative discussion here.

    What can be surmised through anecdotal testimony is that he was a rather unpleasant person to work for and with. IMHO I don’t care if you are the President of the United States or an MLB Manager, Owner of a Mom n Pop store or Have your own reality TV Chef Competition you must treat others with respect. This is especially true when we are talking about a dominant/subordinate relationship. (Okay, the last example-hells kitchen- doesn’t really make my point bc anyone attention starved enough to sign on for such a ludicrous endeavor perhaps deserves what they get- but anyone who watches that show is guilty of poisoning our culture).
    Christian, or atheist or follower of Locke, doesn’t matter where your philosophy is derived, everyone deserves to be treated with respect on the job, and if you are in charge and cannot find a way to motivate others or accomplish tasks without treating others in a manner that respects their status as a fellow human being, then you are not going to get any respect, let alone adulation from me.
    What makes it all the more confounding is the fact that TLR has dedicated his private life to helping subordinate creatures (pets) get a better life and be treated respectfully so we know he at least gets the concept. The cognitive dissonance must really get his head reeling.

    Oh, and if a reply is going to state that the “victims” are MLBers and get paid lavishly and can’t complain, I retort that many of his targets did not have a choice as they were under team control and those that weren’t at any rate shouldn’t have to pack up and move because of a hostile work environment.

    Lastly, I am not saying that subordinates should have had free reign to question his baseball philosophy or managerial decisions, I am saying that both parties must show respect. Yelling, shunning, and the like however are characteristics of a cult/totalitarianism. And finally, a baseball manager is one of those “role model” positions in the spotlight and has the power to influence many young people. That stuff has a pervasive trickle down effect that can poison our culture and like a virus grow exponentially.

    • crdswmn says:

      Kansas, I am happy to see that someone else gets that winning is no excuse for being an awful human being.

    • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

      Its good to see you up and running KB. Don’t be frightened to ask/pose questions at the level of your present intellectual discourse. Surely you might understand why someone would need to veil there answers in a manner of speaking …………… this groups lack of “progress” in evaluating…or prognosticating is no accident ………… but in a positive sense, it is helping someone enjoy a more complete career with much improved access………… so its all for a good cause…….in the end….

      As an aside………….. many of the points of your ” disbelief ” ……….. are unnecessary impediments to seeing what is happening around you at present ………… our goal is always to “win”…….it would serve no purpose whatsoever to ground Tony up……. or Albert ………. but understand this ………. it they deviate from their present courses…….. and interpretation of last years events …….. there will be plenty of flak in the air………………. from Fort DeWitt ……….. he is no fool …………… what he just accomplished, that all here thought was impossible………… shows what he is capable of……. our problem is that the “winning” is not always the highest profit motive ………. that WS cost him the Furcal and Beltran salaries …………… he a miraculously endowed conservative……….or…… an eccentric dragon…….sleeping on top of his ????????………

    • RCWarrior says:

      Kansas, Different strokes for different folks is what I’ve been saying for years now. Tony knows the game and his record speaks for itself. The fact that he has managed in as many wins and losses in the ML’s tells you he knows how to adapt and survive as a manager. He has rarely been part of a team like the Astro’s or Pirates so obviously he has not been managing chopped liver……that definitely helps. I said many years ago….Joe Torre doesn’t win manager of the year because he was the best manager… was because he had the best players.

      Does Tony favor certain guys? Yes. Does he dislike certain guys? Yes. Does he cover for certain guys? Yes. Does he throw certain guys under the bus? Yes. But don’t we all. I believe Tony would do and say whatever he needed to get what he wanted. If he felt the need to be overly truthful…he would. If he felt he needed to tell a whopper….he would. His end game was winning imo and he would do just about anything it took to see that happen. There were no slip ups with Tony. If the media found out about it it was because he wanted them to find out.

      I spoke with Dwayne Murphy, the hitting coach with the Blue Jays while he was down working with Colby and we talked at length about Tony. Tony’s first year in Oakland Coach Murph said he had Dave McKay positioning him according to how Tony wanted him positioned. Coach Murph said that Dave had been the second baseman the year before on his team. And now he was telling him where to stand in the outfield. He said it wasn’t going to be a good fit since he had won a number of Gold gloves and now last years second baseman was telling him where to stand every inning. My point is that Tony does a great job of taking control of every aspect of every game. My only comment over the years has been this…….Not every player responds to his managerial style. Those players, when identified, should be dealt to other places. Because every situation that has arisen over the years has ended badly when it has happened. In other words, Tony was best when surrounded by the type of players that responded to his style. Now its not just positioning that is controled but every individual thought process of the game is controlled by Tony. Some guys just don’t know how to play the game that rigidlike. Throw the instincts out the door and follow the master plan. Its tough on many I would guess. Those that can follow do well under Tony…..those that cannot seem to follow fall on their face.

      I believe Tony did a great job over the years managing…..not good but great. I actually believe Tony played the game like a tactical war. He didn’t mind every now and again to have some infantry take bullets to the chest…..its just part of a war.

      • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

        You should get some consolation out of the knowledge that it was Colby’s situation that eventually broke Tony …….. I’m glad the Jays hitting coach stopped by…….I hope that went well……

        • RCWarrior says:

          Colby’s situation was one where Tony couldn’t touch who he wanted to so he punished the closest thing to it…….The face of the Luhnow draft movement. I’ve received so many…off the record…comments by people in the organization that it would make your head spin. But we knew it in 2008. The “If Luhnow hadn’t drafted you you would have made the team” comment sent us into uh oh, he’s in trouble mode. Then a call to Rolen hearing you had better get him out of there because if Tony starts with you like that you are doomed started us trying to get him out. Mo kept telling Colby that there was light at the end of the tunnel. Tony knew Mo was trying to hang on to Colby until Tony retired. Then after Mo traded Colby Tony retired…..I believe he was gonna hang on for as long as he could. But at Colby’s wedding many a player told Colby thank you for being the one who shouldered all of the TLR hatred. They said after Colby was traded TLR changed into a different person. Good ending WC.

          • Brian Walton says:

            Too many “he”s in that post to tell for sure, but if the implication is that TLR held onto his job because he wanted to outlast Colby, I am going to call BS on that.

            I find it amusing that a post about Oquendo was warped into yet another Rasmus rehash. I mean, really? How many times are we going to cover the same ground? Unless a second shooter turns up, the crime is as cold as an Arctic breeze.

            • RCWarrior says:

              Ha Ha, I agree. The he’s make for some plausible deniability. 🙂

              But I have had one person call me and say Tony felt like he could move on after he won the battle over Colby. Truth. Cardinals guy too. I thought it was funny.

              I said earlier, Oquendo is an infield instructor and the main fact that the later Tony got into his managerial career the more controlling he became made Oquendo nothing more than a puppet who couldn’t think for himself because he was so used to Tony doing all the thinking for him. Great infield guy but manager???? Please. The coaches that left this year are in similar positions with other clubs because thats all they were allowed to do. They wouldn’t know how to squeak out a fart without Tony’s say so and so they can only continue doing what they know.

      • CardinalFan4Ever says:

        I know I don”t post much, but read the site daily. I can truthfully say that I never really liked LaRussa, and I am not just saying that because he is no longer with the team. Larussa ran a dictatorship for the most part in my opinion, his way or the highway.
        The way I see it, the number of players that responded to his coaching style were the ones that could get away with anything, while the others were under so-called house rules, and you better damn well not break them. If you polled 100 players in baseball, who do you think they would rather play for, Larussa or Ron Washington?
        To me, LaRussa is has always been overblown. A good manager is one that takes little\unproven talent, and runs with it, not make them bury their head in the sand if they fail (Tyler Greene, Colby, etc). Joe Maddon is an excellent manager, taking a roster that is turned over every couple years and making the playoffs consistently. Jack McKeon is another I have high respect for. A manager teaches or is supposed to, so tell me what LaRussa taught to the players he has managed? I would venture to say that you could have inserted most any qualified manager in place of Larussa, and they could have won as many games if not more than he did. i laugh every time George Will or someone called him a baseball genius, give me a break here. The sheer number of former Cardinals coming back to the org now that Larussa is gone should give everyone a sense of how much an asshole he really was while he was here.

        Sorry for the rant, but I just never really liked the guy and always thought he was wayyyy overblown as a manager /rant off

      • Kansasbirdman says:

        RC- I am not saying that he shouldn’t be able to pick his players or attempt to find (reasonable) ways to select players that fits his style. I am also not saying that he wasn’t really really knowledgeable about baseball or that he was a really smart tactician. What I am saying is that yelling at people and otherwise not respecting people to me detracts from an assessment of the job they did.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Kansas: “Super Genius” is a redundant farce. When I use the phrase, its intended as a joke, and to counterbalance fans who dislike TLR for goofy reasons. I like TLR. But Tony is no super genius. Its hard to find a Super Genius, anywhere on Planet Earth.

      • Kansasbirdman says:

        I know that a lot of what you post is tongue in cheek, and I apologize that I didn’t word that better. The ‘super genius’ comment made for a good “straw man” to start my post. I should have been more fair to you.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Kansas: “Super Genius” is a redundant farce. When I use the phrase, its intended as a joke, and to counterbalance fans who dislike TLR for goofy reasons. I like TLR. But Tony is no super genius.

      Its hard to find a Super Genius, anywhere on Planet Earth. We could use more of them.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Oops, sorry for the double post. I just got my computer cleaned of malware and other impurities and they gave me new Internet software too. I am more confused than normal.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        I like TLR as a manager, so will save a few words in support.
        He is no nonsense and a disciplinarian. Athletes may be rich and used to adulation and suck ups who indulge their vanities and egos. TLR is not afraid to tell jocks what to do. Good. Ballplayers can use guidance and realism.
        TLR is not afraid to tell GMs and owners what the team needs to win. TLR is about competing and winning, not just about everybody feeling good and sweet. He is no wimp.
        TLR often says very perceptive things to newspaper reporters. I understand he was not a cute loveable interviewee, but he is smart and realistic and balanced about the game.
        TLR respects great players and understands baseball history. Having seen so many players through the years, he has a reasonable perspective.

  2. blingboy says:

    It says something about Jose that he was invited to stay post Tony. I’m not sure what exactly. Maybe he he took a page out of Red’s book.

  3. Brian Walton says:

    Gotta love it. Seems a 180 degree turn every day… or over-reaction over business as usual…

    “Molina, Cardinals re-engage in talks”

    • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

      They read here…………. or was that GH???????????? who knows…………….. it isn’t in their best interest to deal with Molina in a hostile manner ………… the real issue….. thats AP trying to tap his Cardinal persona by keeping everyone fixated on him here………. DeWitt is fighting back……… Angels are trying to help him meet the challenge …….. but lets be honest……. Pujols is a disaster waiting to happen for Anaheim ………………… if he implodes……the plot will thicken in a hurry ………. the bottom line….. Tony helped shape AP and DeWitt knew it……….when he separated the two, winning the conflict, everyone seemed to benefit …… even Tony and apparently AP had positive things happen to them…….. Angels want him to be El Hombre ……….. but he doesn’t ……. thats the St. Louis Albert speaking ………… and now DeWitt is on the attack again…….he will sign Molina……….. further isolating AP……… BD knows well the needs of the myth……….

      • RCWarrior says:

        No doubt many Cardinals will be watching Albert to see how he responds to not having Tony build him up and wonder of Mike S will allow Albert to do as he pleases like Tony did. It will be fun to watch this aspect of the Albert story this year. My money is on Albert blowing up this year and winning the MVP.

  4. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    Buddy S. is on a roll now ……………. I agree with the decision because we need Braun in the devision…
    of course he’s guilty….but who cares

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Baseball is a business. Braun is a star, so Bud conveniently finds a break in the chain of custody in his case. Braun was loaded with PEDs to the gills. What a farce!

      Here is the important thing. Braun and the Brewers were Losers! The Cards took them down, even though Braun was pumped full of everything he could inject and ingest. He gave us his best shot but we smushed Braun’s team. Very funny stuff.

      Go Cards!

      • crdswmn says:

        Ryan Braun is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, he leaps tall buildings in a single bound, he fights the never ending battle for truth, justice and the American Way!. Ryan Braun is…….Super Baseball Player!

      • Bw52 says:

        Did you really expect Braun would be suspended? What team did Selig used to own? Who does Braun play for? Its real simple.

        • RCWarrior says:

          irrelevant. Flimsy case and you just can’t take evidence to your house and keep it. There is just too many things that could happen to it. Case dismissed….

          • Kansasbirdman says:

            So if there is any funny business or place to examine it is there. I doubt Selig has any power at the arb hearing. But who influenced what before, and why?

            • RCWarrior says:

              The neutral arbitrator was not going to look at the evidence and rule against Braun. It was ridiculous to think that someone without an agenda would find him guilty with the way the evidence was handled. It was never going to stick.

              Sure MLB has to put up this front that they are against the decision but they had to know that the way things were handled they were going to lose. Or they’re not as smart as they need to be.

              After dealing with the Cardinals and Tony for these few years I can tell you nothing is as it seems. You know what they want you to know and you know it when they want you to know it. Big money breeds corruption and you are talking about huge money here. I find that 95% of stuff I have read about many people is completely false but because it is in a newspaper it has to be fact.

        • crdswmn says:

          Nonsense built on nonsense. Procedures are in place to be strictly followed for a reason, to insure the integrity of the testing. When they aren’t followed, this is what happens. Hopefully MLB will make sure it doesn’t happen again.

      • blingboy says:

        Jumbo, what happened to the happy little muscle helping molecules? You get up on the wrong side of the bed?

      • RCWarrior says:

        Say what you will Jumbo…..In a court of law the sample would not have been allowed into evidence after spending the night in someones refridgerator. And without that evidence then there is no positive test.

  5. blingboy says:

    I you guys could figure out how to weave in some sex, violence and car chases, we’d really have something here.

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