Big League Stew - MLB

The Cardinals were the first to be swept from the 2009 postseason.

Now they're the first to face the tough questions of their future and a lot of them seem rather obvious:

1. Will Matt Holliday(notes)  return to complete his "unfinished business?"

2. Will Scott Boras let him?

3. What becomes of Joel Pineiro(notes) and Mark DeRosa(notes), both free agents to be?

4. Will Albert Pujols(notes) receive an early contract extension before his current one expires in 2011 and become a Cardinal for the rest of his career? 

All of the above — and many others — will be answered over the coming months, but I have to admit I'm most intrigued by the situation of manager Tony La Russa. He isn't signed for the 2010 season, but GM John Mozeliak says he expects La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan (who has a mutual option for 2010) will be back for a 15th season.

From the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

"I would expect that Tony and I will speak further about what our plans are going forward," Mozeliak said. "Typically those things are addressed after the season ends. I wouldn't anticipate a great deal of lag time."

Yes, La Russa's return seems like a foregone conclusion and I would bet that he'll be back. He needs about three more seasons to pass John McGraw for the second spot on the managers' all-time wins list and with a core of Pujols, Chris Carpenter(notes), Adam Wainwright(notes) and maybe Holliday, there aren't many better spots for him to do this. He will always be a Cardinal. It's hard to imagine him plying his trade anywhere else.

Still, there's a small part of me that thinks La Russa, ever the non-conformist, is about to throw us a giant curve. He just turned 65 last week and after such a deflating end to the season, maybe he retires, takes a season off and returns to a fresh challenge somewhere else to reassert his genius. Throw in the little spat that Duncan had with the Cardinals earlier this season and maybe his right-hand man will feed La Russa's ego the idea of taking another franchise to the top. It wouldn't make sense, but after a career of unconventional ideas and changes, you can't completely rule it out.

Is all of this a little too speculative? A little far-fetched? Yes, probably. But in the recent wake of such first-round disappointment, I just thought I'd throw it out there.  

PS — Just did a quick search after writing this and apparently Buster Olney's thinking the same thing over at ESPN. Stay tuned. 

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