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St. Louis has brought back its secret weapon

Jose Oquendo

The Cardinals announced this week that Willie McGee will be joining their coaching staff. The 1985 NL MVP has not had a specific role announced on the staff yet, but it does make for a fine addition to the club. The Cardinals had lots of mistakes on the bases early in the 2017 season, but McGee should be able to help relieve that.

The addition was exciting for Cardinal nation. However, the fans were in for an even bigger treat shortly after. The team announced that they will be bringing back former third base coach Jose Oquendo, and the fans rejoiced.

Oquendo will bring back the old Cardinal Way

Jose Oquendo was a key cog in the Cardinals coaching staff that occupied the dugout for such a long time. Tony La Russa, Dave Duncan and Oquendo all were at the forefront of the Cardinals’ success for nearly two decades. Since they have all left, St. Louis has struggled to find its identity that fans have become so custom to.

Jose Oquendo
Mike Matheny is going into his seventh season as manager, making him a seasoned vet. (Photo from Viva El Birdos)

Some of the current Cardinals players have suggested that new guys were not embracing the “Cardinal Way”. What this means is they were getting lazy on the field and at times would look like a minor league team.

Oquendo had been working with minor league players in Jupiter, Florida in the Cardinals’ system the past couple of years while he was rehabilitating his knee. His impact was evident by the success of minor league players at the big league level. Names like Tommy Pham, Jose Martinez and Luke Weaver are evidence of success of coaching in the minor leagues. This is because the guys that started in the minors in 2017 were the best players on the Cardinals when they came up.

What this hire does is bring stability back to the Cardinals coaching staff. In the middle of 2017, the front office shuffled the coaching staff to show that they were serious about getting the club back into shape. Oquendo provides that presence back into the clubhouse that will get the attention of everyone.

Not only will the players be impacted by this, but it puts Mike Matheny in an interesting position.

Oquendo wanted the managerial job in 2012

After the Cardinals won a historic World Series in 2011, Tony La Russa made a surprise announcement that he was leaving the skipper role. Not only that, but long-time pitching coach Dave Duncan also announced he would be leaving the club.

Jose Oquendo
Oquendo has experience managing the Puerto Rico national team. (Photo from Zimbio)

These departures left a real gap in leadership that the Cardinals had for a long time. Oquendo was sticking around though. He has been coaching the club since 1999, so he would be the perfect candidate right? Former Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny was instead given the job. This made many fans wonder if it was the right call to overlook the long-time third base coach.

Now that Matheny has had six full years as manager, we have had a good look of what he is capable of. In his first three years, the Cardinals were able to reach the NLCS twice and the World Series once. Pretty solid for a first time manager.

Since then, the Cardinals have only won a single playoff game. This is cause for concern because this is when there is very little remnants of the old coaching staff of La Russa and Duncan. Since Oquendo left the big league club in 2015, they have not made the postseason.

There may be cause for concern if your name is Mike Matheny. Next season may be a test to see who the Cardinals skipper should really be. St. Louis has not missed the postseason three consecutive years since 1997-1999. Matheny may be on the hot seat if signs show they will not be able to make the playoffs again. Oquendo’s name would also be a strong possibility to take over that role if the dominoes fall that way.

Will the hire lead to wins?

Over the past two seasons, the Cardinals have lacked discipline, and it has shown on the field. Silly mistakes and untimely errors have cost them the chance to get back into the postseason. This is evident through the fact they had the second most one-run losses in the regular season.

Oquendo is the perfect guy for getting the young Cardinals talent back into shape and improving on an already talented team. Look for them to seriously contest with the Cubs next year in the central.


Featured image by St. Louis Post Dispatch

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