Earlier today we offered 5 reasons Bobby Cox should step aside. Some of you then asked the logical follow-up: OK, genius, who would you hire to replace him? Here, presented in order of preference, is my short list:
1. Brad Mills, Red Sox bench coach: He has apprenticed beside Terry Francona, who’s the second-best manager in baseball — Minnesota’s Ron Gardenhire is the best — and who was Mills’ college roommate. He’s steeped in the Sox system of numbers-crunching, which would surely delight the stat geeks on DOB’s blog, and has been known to use the word “sabermetrics” in conversation.
2. Jose Oquendo, Cardinals third base coach: He’s considered the first choice to succeed Tony La Russa in St. Louis, but nobody’s sure when La Russa will leave. Oquendo is a key player liaison, having built an alliance with the taciturn Albert Pujols. (Ah, but you’re asking: Could he get along with Yunel Escobar? Probably.)
3. Dave Duncan, Cardinals pitching coach: There’s a spotty history for pitching coaches as managers. Roger Craig was a good one, Ray Miller less good. (And Leo Mazzone, the best pitching coach ever, never got a managerial sniff.) But the belief in St. Louis is that Duncan, La Russa’s longtime No. 2, wants out: He’s said to be angry at the local media over the treatment of his son Chris, whom the Cardinals traded to Boston last month. And it’s worth noting that Duncan wasn’t actually a pitcher himself. He was a catcher for the Oakland A’s of the early ’70s.
4. Terry Pendleton, Braves hitting coach: If the Braves stay in-house, he’s the guy. He’s respected by the players — Jeff Francoeur’s flight to Texas for instruction shouldn’t be viewed as a consensus opinion — and beloved by the brass. He’s a hard worker who played under two of the best managers ever in Cox and Whitey Herzog, and he’s also a bit of a hard nose. (He rides a Harley!) Which, coming after the gentle ways of Bobby Cox, might not be a bad thing.
5. Scott Ullger, Twins third base coach: If Gardenhire is the best — and he is — why not grab his chief lieutenant? Ullger is a lifer in the Twins’ system and has managed in the minors. Plus, you have to admire a guy whose official bio reads: “Experience: A lot.”