Cardinals fire Mike Matheny: Here are 10 managerial candidates who could replace him
From Joe Girardi to Stubby Clapp and everyone in between
The St. Louis Cardinals fired manager Mike Matheny on Saturday, ending his six-plus year run at the helm in unceremonious fashion. The Cardinals have since installed bench coach Mike Shildt as their interim skipper.
But before Shildt has had the chance to oversee a game from the manager's perch, let's get reckless and messy and speculate on 10 potential candidates (some more realistic than others) to take over on a permanent basis.
The obvious candidate -- so obvious that we connected the dots between Girardi and the Cardinals last fall after he was fired by the New York Yankees.
Girardi checks all the boxes. He has a sterling reputation as a skipper and human being; has 11 seasons of managerial experience; has won a World Series and more than 55 percent of regular-season games; and yes, has a connection to St. Louis, having played there in 2003.
What isn't there to like? Well, Girardi was dismissed in part because the Yankees felt he couldn't make a connection with younger players. Perhaps that was executive prattle, and maybe Girardi has or can learn from his past mistakes. Still, it's something the Cardinals (and other interested parties) have to think about.
There's a chance the biggest negative with Girardi is that he may not want to return to managing just yet. He's spoken before about his desire to spend more time with his family, and it's unclear if he'd want to take up a post midseason. Whatever happens here, Girardi will remain the top available managerial candidate up until he takes his next job.
Perhaps both the merited and sentimental pick. Oquendo has been part of the Cardinals organization for more than three decades. He played with St. Louis from 1985 until 1995, and thereafter transitioned to coaching. He worked his way up the ladder, joining the big-league staff as the bench coach in 1999. A year later he shifted to third base, where he's remained since, save for the 2016-17 seasons (he missed time due to knee surgery).
Oquendo will presumably be part of the Cardinals next coaching staff regardless. He ought to get an interview for the gig, just as he did before Matheny was hired, in part due to his popularity with the players and in part because of his extensive coaching career, which includes stints as manager in the minors and twice for Puerto Rico's World Baseball Classic team.
Bell is another familiar face around St. Louis. He played with the Cardinals for parts of four seasons before later serving in a variety of roles on the coaching staff, including as bench coach for a few years. Bell left the organization last fall to join the San Francisco Giants as their new vice president of player development. He's been identified as a future manager before.
Sticking with the theme of former Cardinals players, McGwire would serve as more than a headline-grabbing name. He's nearly a decade into his coaching career, having started out as the Cardinals hitting coach back in 2010. Though he's never managed, he has served as the San Diego Padres bench coach since the start of the 2016 season.
Though Molina never played with the Cardinals, he has connections to the organization. He's Yadier's older brother; he was the club's assistant hitting coach in 2013; and he's currently an analyst on their Spanish broadcasts. Molina's coaching experience is otherwise limited to serving as the Texas Rangers' first-base coach in 2014. It's not going to happen, but what would be funner than seeing one Molina manage another?
This, this would be funner. Obviously the Cardinals are not going to enlist Molina as a player-manager. It would be an outside-the-box choice, however.
Back to realistic candidates, beginning with perhaps the most inside-the-box choice possible, seeing as how Shildt is technically already the manager. For those who are unaware: Shildt has been with the organization for more than a decade in a number of roles. He began his time with the Cardinals as a scout and minor-league coach and manager, and was eventually named the Cardinals' third-base coach in 2017. He slid to bench coach this season. It's unclear if management considers Shildt a long-term candidate for the job, but they seem to view him fondly.
A blast from the past, Clapp played in the Cardinals organization for a number of years, culminating in his brief big-league run in 2001. The reason he's on this list is because he's served as their Triple-A manager for the past season-plus. He has ample minor-league coaching experience elsewhere, too. Though it's unlikely that he'll find himself in the manager's seat, he could be part of a future coaching staff.
Should Girardi turn down the Cardinals, they could always turn to one of his old charges. Like Espada, who served on Girardi's Yankees staff and is now the Houston Astros bench coach. Espada seems like a rising star in the coaching world.
Even including Girardi, there's perhaps no more accomplished manager available than Baker. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem likely he'll get another chance to chase down a ring.
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