One of the problems — maybe the biggest problem — with the decision of the St. Louis Cardinals to make Mike Shildt the team’s permanent manager is the fact that it seems to doom the franchise to the loss of current Class AAA manager Stubby Clapp.
It’s utterly amazing that Clapp was able to lead the Memphis Redbirds to a minor league championship this season when the guys he thought would be anchoring his starting rotation — Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Daniel Poncedeleon, Austin Gomber and John Gant — were all summoned to St. Louis to fill important roles with the big league club.
It didn’t seem as if it mattered what players were assigned to him, Clapp had his team humming like a well-oiled machine all season long. Because of the way he’s managed this season and the two years before it, not to mention the role he’s had in preparing young players to make an impact in the major leagues, Clapp was considered to be a strong contender in the competition to be former skipper Mike Matheny’s permanent replacement.
Because there is no way Clapp is going to become the manager of the St. Louis club in the next couple of years, it seems that he’s ripe to be plucked away by another franchise. There are several managerial openings including ones with the Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles. If Clapp doesn’t land one of those gigs, he might be interested in taking one step closer by becoming a bench coach or something similar with an MLB club. After all, Shildt used his time as quality control coach with the Cardinals as a bridge from being a minor league manager to becoming a big league skipper. It would make sense for Clapp to try to make the same move.
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It would seem that the Cardinals don’t have many options for enticing their top minor league manager to stay when they promoted Shildt ahead of him. While Clapp might view a major league coaching job to be a promotion over being a minor league manager, I’m not sure how much Shildt is going to want competition in his clubhouse. When the Birds wilted a little bit toward the end of the season as part of an otherwise spectacular second half, some fans were quick to gripe that the team acted too soon in removing the new manager’s interim tag. So, it would be a pretty uncomfortable situation for the rookie skipper to have a potential successor already in the building.
I’d say it’s much more likely Clapp will move outside of the organization to try to move forward than to try to stay within it. That just doesn’t make sense.
Toronto has had the most action when it comes to rumors involving Clapp. First, because the former left fielder and second baseman hails from Windsor, Ontario. Second, because he spent a couple of years in the Blue Jays farm system before his playing days came to an end, so he is something of a familiar commodity. But, while Clapp’s name keeps coming up in stories and blogs about that job, there seems to be an awful lot of competition for the position.
It’s a shame to lose Clapp because he obviously has a knack for preparing players to make the move to the big leagues, regardless of whether he’s cut out to be a big league manager. If the Cardinals plan to stay the course with developing players from within instead of going the free agency route, that’s a valuable commodity. And let’s not forget that Shildt was already subtracted from the player development side when he became a big league coach.
Maybe the only way the Birds can keep Clapp is if they offer him an executive role in player development. But it seems like he’s keen on managing. Plus, it seems like his skill set is rooted in being on the field — not in a suit.
Anyway, if this is goodbye, Clapp was fun to watch during his cup of coffee as a major league player in St. Louis — and Cardinals fans are grateful for all the fine work he did in stocking the shelves with major league ready talent.