The St. Louis Cardinals of the 2000s were something of a dynasty. The Cardinals won the Central seven times, and made the playoffs as a Wild Card another year. They went to the World Series twice, winning it once. Hate on the Cards all you want (no, seriously: hate on the Cardinals), but you can’t argue that the organization knew what it was doing.
So how about bringing the three most important pieces of the 2000s Cardinals to the Chicago Cubs? Amazingly, there is some chatter that the Cubs are genuinely considering bringing former Cardinals’ GM Walt Jocketty on board, together with Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, and then making a serious run at free agent first baseman, Albert Pujols.
At least, so says Gordon Wittenmyer:
According to a major-league source, the scenario raised during informal discussions would start with the Cubs going after Cincinnati Reds general manager Walt Jocketty, who would, in turn, hire his old manager, Tony La Russa, from St. Louis. La Russa’s relationship with Pujols would then lead to the Cubs landing one of the top free-agent hitters on the market.
Depending on how far the Cubs get — or don’t — with a GM wish list that starts with the likes of Theo Epstein and Andrew Friedman, the Jocketty-La Russa-Pujols model might not be as far-fetched as it seems at first glance. Jocketty and La Russa are both in contract years, and La Russa is said to be ready to leave St. Louis.
I don’t expect you need me to tell you how incredibly unlikely this series of events is. Even if LaRussa leaves St. Louis, Pujols remains likely to stay, as the face of the franchise. LaRussa is 66, and may be unwilling to take on a new challenge, particularly one as daunting as the Cubs (particularly where he’ll find that at least half of the fan base hates him, no matter what colors he’s wearing). And it’s not like Tony has expressed much but antipathy for the Cubs over the last decade and a half.
Also, there’s something unpalatable about taking the Cardinals’ sloppy seconds to try and cobble together a winner on the North Side. Let’s say it works, and the Cubs finally win it all under the guidance of Jocketty and LaRussa, with Pujols smacking the ball around. The Cardinals and their fans will always be able to hold it over our heads: “you couldn’t win until you took our people. That championship is half Cardinals’ property.” Ugh. Gross. And it would be a legit dig.
So, setting aside the highly unlikely reddening of the Chicago Cubs, what about Jocketty as GM?
He certainly satisfies a number of Tom Ricketts’ stated criteria, and is perhaps the most accomplished executive actually available this offseason. But he’s 60 years old already, which, though not “old,” doesn’t quite comport with the up-and-coming feeling we’re getting from the search. Further, Jocketty is close personal friends with Reds’ owner Bob Castellini, and says he’s happy in Cincinnati.
“It’s not really my place to talk about other teams’ job openings,” Jocketty said yesterday. “The Chicago job is always going to be considered a great one, but I’m very happy where I’m at with the Reds and I am under contract.”
Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jocketty would consider the challenge of the Chicago Cubs too enticing to pass up. If he’s a legitimate candidate, you can slot him in the group just below the big four (Epstein, Friedman, Cashman, Beane) in terms of desirability.
Just don’t expect him to actually bring LaRussa and Pujols along with him.
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