Go ask Albert
Dave van Dyck
Best choice? Whoever Albert wants. And that's being only half-facetious because if the Cardinals have any hope of keeping three-time MVP Albert Pujols, the new manager will have to be someone he likes/respects.
The natural choice would be ex-Red Sox manager Terry Francona, especially given the last 31 years of Cardinals big-name managers (Whitey Herzog, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa). But staff holdover Jose Oquendo also makes sense because he knows the system.
If the Cardinals want a clean slate from the La Russa years as they rebuild with youth, they should pick Ryne Sandberg — and even future Hall of Famer Pujols can't argue with his credentials.
If Francona wants it
Los Angeles Times
The Cardinals need someone with more than just people and managerial skills. They also need someone with the gravitas to take over a club that just won the World Series.
At the top of that short list would be one-time Cardinals catcher Joe Girardi. But he already has his dream job with the Yankees. Next would be former Red Sox skipper Terry Francona, who was run out of Boston when the team blew the wild-card playoff spot in the final inning of the final game.
But the frat-house environment Francona presided over in Boston won't fly in St. Louis, where La Russa long ran the tightest clubhouse in baseball. However, if Francona can convince management, the players and fans he can be a disciplinarian, this could be a good fit.
Francona has credibility
I'd be surprised if the Cardinals, in replacing a manager who won two World Series in the last six years, look past a former manager who won two World Series in the last eight years — Terry Francona.
His reported loss of the Red Sox's clubhouse is no small thing to overlook, but he would bring instant credibility and a championship resume to the manager's seat. He had success — last year's collapse aside — managing in Boston, a city with a proud, loyal fan base and rich baseball tradition, much like St. Louis.
Furthermore, if speculation that Theo Epstein is interested in bringing in Francona as the Cubs' manager is on point, the Cardinals' snatching him away from their archrivals would be a coup.
Sandberg deserves it
While the Cardinals will take a close look at all of the obvious candidates, they ought to think outside the box and go after Ryne Sandberg.
The Phillies would love to keep Sandberg around until Charlie Manuel goes, but Ryno deserves to be managing a big-league club in 2012.
Sandberg brings instant respect and credibility into the dugout and showed in his Triple-A stint that he knows how to get the best out of players and put them in situations to succeed.
Plus, he's a St. Louis kind of guy with a Midwestern sensibility. He would have an instant love affair with the team's fans, who would quickly forget how much he tormented them as a player.