According to an interesting story this morning on Yahoo! Sports, longtime Atlanta manager Bobby Cox was so upset by the way the John Smoltz situation was handled by Braves GM Frank Wren that he packed his bag during spring training and planned to quit.
Cox was talked out of quitting by one of his coaches. But Atlanta was never really able to mount a threat in the NL East while Smoltz's departure helped lead the Cardinals to a bright post season picture. Now it is open to speculation whether Cox will come back to Atlanta for another season, which helps put the off season managerial coaching carousel in motion.
Of course, people in these parts are most concerned with what is going to happen with St. Louis' managerial situation. Will Tony La Russa leave town at the end of his contract? If so, who would replace him.
La Russa has said repeatedly that he wants to manage a team that has a chance to win. As it is currently configured, the Cardinals are one of the top three or four teams in the National League. If it keeps it's core intact, re-signing Matt Holliday to a longterm contract, it would seem La Russa would be more likely to sign on for another two or three years and then retire as a Cardinal. Anyplace he could go would be a downgrade. The Yankees, Angels, Phillies, Dodgers and other competitive teams all already have managers they like in place.
Keep things the way they are and it may be too tempting for La Russa to leave. But if the front office decides to remake the roster, it may have to remake the coaching staff as well.
Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa pleads his case to umpires prior to being thrown out of a game Sept. 12. AP photo.
Atlanta coach Terry Pendleton has been a hot managerial prospect for a couple of years and a lot of people think he is being groomed by the Braves to take over when Cox decides to retire. I wouldn't mind seeing the Cardinals former third sacker back in red if La Russa did decide to ride off into the sunset. He's a dynamic leader that players like and respect. He also appreciates the fundamentals of the game and respects the importance of defense.
Incumbent candidate Jose Oquendo is a great coach. But he doesn't have much managerial experience and I just wonder how much clout he would have with the front office if La Russa left. Would the Cardinals be tempted by other former Redbirds with more managerial experience, like Mets coach Ken Oberkfell who has skippered teams in New York's farm system?
Another manager on the hot seat who could be of interest to the Cardinals is Washington interim skipper Jim Riggleman, a former big league coach with the Cardinals, who is uncertain at this point if he'll get the Nationals job on a permanent basis. Riggleman was in the Cardinals minor league system two years ago when La Russa was on the fence about coming back. When La Russa decided to stay, Riggleman sought greener pastures in Seattle but lost his major league coaching job there when the skipper was fired.
There will likely be several managerial jobs to choose from this offseason with the Astros and Nationals jobs already available and the Mets, Orioles, Braves, Cubs and others possibly being interested in a change.
Personally, I hope the Cardinals can smooth things over with Dave Duncan and bring back the current coaching staff and roster. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Keeping things as they are is the Birds' best chance for winning in the near future. And, if we learned anything in 2008, "rebuilding" is NOT for the birds.