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A handful of new skipper candidates still to interview

Posted Tuesday, November 8, 2011, at 7:43 AM

It's already been a busy offseason for Cardinals officials. With a slough of free agents that includes possibly the largest free agent in the history of the game and the surprise retirement of longtime manager Tony LaRussa, GM John Mozeliak has his work cut out for him.

The team made moves in the second half of the season to work out deals with Lance Berkman, Jaime Garcia and Chris Carpenter as well as exercising a two-year option on Adam Wainwright.

This pro-active move, now that we know of LaRussa's intentions, seems to have been a necessity.

As if attempting to fight the piranhas off of Albert Pujols wasn't enough, not the team is neck deep in the search for a manager to succeed the most successful manager in Cardinals history. Those are some big shoes to fill.

What direction will Mozeliak and Chairman Bill Dewitt, Jr. take them team for the coming years? Well, there are a couple of options.

The expected move for a team coming off of a World Series with a good shot at being in contention for at least the next two seasons would be to bring in a seasoned, proven manager. While that would be the expected move, it doesn't necessarily mean that's what will happen.

The second option is to bring in someone either within the organization or with no major league managerial experience. While it sounds far-fetched, that's not uncommon in today's baseball world.

Quite often the move is seen as a way to give the organization more control over the manager and team in general. This leads to an important question, how much control does Mozeliak want over his team?

Of the six named candidates, only one has major league managerial experience. Five of those candidates have never managed in Major League Baseball.

In case you haven't seen it yet, here's a rundown of the six known candidates for the position.

* Terry Francona-He managed the Red Sox from 2004 through 2011 and led the team to a pair of World Series Championships in 2004 and 2008, effectively ending the "Curse of the Bambino." Francona is the only known candidate with major league managing experience. He's also well accustomed to stroking superstar egos and keeping them generally in line. He brings an impressive resume to the table, but will the Cardinals be scared off by the personal issues that are following him from the end of last season?

* Jose Oquendo-Longtime third-base coach and former Cardinals fan favorite Oquendo has been thought by fans for years to be LaRussa's obvious successor. While the move is possible, don't count your chickens because some of the competition is pretty good. He has to show Mozeliak and Dewitt why he is a better choice than Francona. I'm not sure how to make that argument, but he's going to give it a shot.

* Chris Maloney-If anyone in this group has earned a shot at managing the Cardinals it is this guy. Never heard of him? That's because for nearly two decades he has managed the Cardinals AAA team, the Memphis Redbirds. Everyone on this team who came up through the farm system, at one point or another played under him already. He's experienced with these players as well as with guiding young talent to become the future of the club.

* Mike Matheny-Matheny was somewhat of a surprise on the list, and don't count him out just yet. Apparently he did a good job at his Friday interview with the club. Hiring Matheny would give the front office more control, which may be an interest of theirs. He's played with several of the team's superstars, including Albert who, early in his career, was taken under Matheny's wing. Don't count him out yet.

* "Super" Joe McEwing-Currently, Super Joe is expected to be a third base coach for the Chicago White Sox under Ventura, but this job is a possibility. With that being said, I think he is the most unlikely candidate on the list.

* Ryne Sandberg-Did this one shock you when you first heard about him? It sure did me. Tony LaRussa, as well as Dewitt, spoke very highly of Sandberg in various interviews last week stating that he has the potential to be a fantastic manager. The question remains, will it be in a Cardinals uniform? Would a riot follow on the streets of Chicago after new GM Theo Epstein didn't even give him a chance to interview for the Cubs opening?

In an interview with the St. Louis Post Dispatch this weekend, Dewitt confirmed there are more on the list, but only three more interviews were planned at the time of his chat with Rick Hummel.

Mozeliak has stated on numerous occasions that he would like this to be a done deal before the November general manager meetings next week. He also insisted the process shouldn't be unnecessarily rushed.

I do think they will sign someone sooner rather than later. As far as who that would be, I won't be betting any money on that. The one thing I know is that it's a lot like a Presidential primary: Everyone picks their guy, but in the end, we all get behind whoever pulls out the win.

Corey Noles is also the author of the blog, Both Sides of the Gun at dailystatesman.com where readers can comment on this and other past columns.

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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.

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