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ESPN thinks La Russa will be back. I'm not sure.

ESPN reports, thanks to remarks Cardinals manager Tony La Russa made about young players in the team's system and optimism about its bright future that he's likely to come back to manage in St. Louis in 2012.

I wrote about a month ago that I too was of the belief that he was going to come back because of the way he talked about the team's future. But since then some things have happened that might weigh more on La Russa' decision than his personal wishes.

Pitching coach Dave Duncan's wife, Jeannie has been seriously ill, causing La Russa's right hand man to take off a month of work when the Cardinals were making their dramatic drive to make the playoffs. Although her prognosis has not been revealed, the nature of the illness was: She had a brain tumor removed.

Since he returned to be with the Redbirds for the playoffs, Duncan looks stressed and tired and La Russa said he was reluctant to leave his wife's side. If Duncan decides he needs to stay home to be with his wife -- and no one would fault him if he did -- I wonder if La Russa would continue to manage without the man who has been his pitching coach since he began his career three decades ago.

Obviously, I hope Jeannie Duncan recovers well and quickly. But if I was in Dave Duncan's shoes, I would have a hard time concentrating on baseball if her health was still in doubt. And the possibility also exists that La Russa and Duncan, both in their late sixties, might take this as a wake up call. There may be other things in their lives they want to do with their lives beyond baseball.

So, I have no idea at this late stage of the game whether they will be back or not. But it would be ideal if Jeannie Duncan makes a speedy recovery and La Russa and Dave Duncan can decide if they want to guide a Cardinals team that includes Albert Pujols in 2012.