David Eckstein, Albert Pujols' former Cardinals teammate and winner of the 2006 World Series MVP Award, told Fox Sports that the Redbirds need to elevate their third base coach to manager if they want to re-sign their free agent superstar.
"My initial reaction was 'it needs to be Jose Oquendo,'" Eckstein told Fox Sports about learning of futire Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa's retirment on Monday. "When you played for Tony, you didn't want to disappoint him. When I was playing infield for Jose, I didn't want to disappoint him. I know how much he has put into this. The guys love Jose. When I was there, I could tell they were grooming him to be the next manager if he stayed around."
Eckstein said he believes Pujols wants to see continuity with the Cardinals in the post-La Russa era, and Oquendo, who has been with the team for 24 years as a player and a coach, would be the person who would make Pujols most comfortable.
"Albert would stay if Oquendo got the job," Eckstein said.
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The likelihood of Oquendo having a shot of the job probably increased on Tuesday when longtime Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan said Tuesday that he wants to stay with the club in that role in 2012 despite the retirement of his longtime partner on the bench.
I'm a little uneasy about the Cardinals handing over the reigns of power to a skipper who has never managed a game in the major leagues before. But if the Birds kept the rest of their coaching staff intact, it would make me feel a little bit more at ease because of the high level of experience from the support staff.
I think it's a little bit ironic that Pujols would prefer Oquendo to be the manager since the St. Louis slugger doesn't seem to care much for Oquendo's orders. When is the last time Pujols actually stopped when Oquendo told him to as he rounded third base?
This may sound a little bit over the top at first, but there might be a better candidate than Oquendo to be the Cardinals manager if the goal is to keep Pujols around for the next eight to 10 years. May I suggest the title "St. Louis Cardinals Player-Manager Albert Pujols?"
While using a star player to serve as manager is a baseball throwback to the days when Rogers Hornsby and Frank Frisch were with the Redbirds, the arrangement could make some sense. Tony La Russa made $5 million last year. If Pujols was the manager, too, the Cardinals could plow their funds budgeted for the skipper into Albert's new contract. It would make the cost that much easier to swallow...
It's an unlikely scenario. But no more unlikely than watching Jose Oquendo do a barage of post-game interviews 162 times a year.