St. Louis Cardinals: Look back at what once was, coaching edition
The St. Louis Cardinals coaching staff were all one-time players. While they may suffer as coaches, were they successful as players?
The St. Louis Cardinals will be researching their current players in an effort to look ahead to 2018. Likewise, we at Redbird Rants are looking ahead to 2018 one player at a time thanks to Josh McDonald. Be sure to follow his pieces for a look at what might be coming in 2018.
To compliment the greatness that Josh is creating for us, I will be taking us through a look back. Not at the players but rather at the coaching staff.
I have not been too kind to this MLB coaching staff over the 2017 campaign. I admit that. In spite of my ire, it may serve us all well to see whether these leaders of men were great followers in their day; were they successful players or did they suffer as the 2017 St. Louis Cardinals did?
If you missed my first post in this series- on Mike Shildt- jump over here and have a look.
This installment will look squarely at Ron “Pop” Warner. I LOVE Pop Warner. Warner embodied the type of player who skyrockets to the top of my like list in the fact that he was a utility infielder with spunk. If you are a fan of my writing then you know that I like spunky utility players in the ilk of Fernando Vina, Aaron Miles, Skip Schumaker, and Greg Garcia.
Pop was not a bad player but never broke through the glass ceiling into the majors. He was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1991 out of the University of Wyoming and spent the entirety of his nine-season career in the minor leagues of the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
His playing career came to an end following the 1999 season thanks to injury that Warner felt he could no longer play through or play past.
Warner was a utility infielder appearing at third base in 222 games in his career. In these he owned a .947 fielding percentage with a RF/G of 2.59. For comparison sake, coveted Josh Donaldson owns a .956 fielding percentage with a RF/G of 2.73. See why Donaldson is so coveted?
The current third baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, by the way, owns a .963 fielding percentage with a RF/G of 2.29 (Jedd Gyorko).
Warner also appeared at short stop in 238 games in his career. This was the spot that he held prominently and was best known for his time here. In his career at short stop, he posted a fielding percentage of .912 with a RF/G of 3.93.
For comparison sake, coveted Andrelton Simmons owns a short stop fielding percentage of .982 with a RF/G of 4.46. The current player manning short stop for the St. Louis Cardinals- Paul DeJong– owns a fielding percentage of .975 with a RF/G of 4.00.
Admittedly, times are different today than they were in the 90s but these comparisons illustrate why Pop spent his career in the minors. Additionally, Pop was landlocked (as it were) because the Cardinals were well-stocked at short stop, third base, and other positions by players like Ozzie Smith, Gary Gaetti, and Todd Zeile.
During his playing days, Warner posted a career batting line of .267/.356/.389. These numbers illustrated just how middle-of-the-road Pop Warner was as an offensive player. While not terrible, Warner’s slash line just wasn’t strong enough to pull him into the minors. See the three names above for reasons why these numbers just weren’t good enough.
Pop’s true glory was not found playing on the diamond but was instead realized in the dugout. After injury removed him from playing the game on the diamond, Warner was invited into the fold of the St. Louis Cardinals organization and inserted as the batting practice pitcher for the 2000 St. Louis Cardinals.
Could you imagine serving as the batting practice pitcher serving at the pleasure of Tony La Russa, learning the Tony way of things, and pitching to greats such as Jim Edmonds, Mark McGwire, Ray Lankford, and Edgar Renteria? What a wonderful way to start a coaching career.
Oh, and the 2000 Cardinals saw themselves into the postseason as the NL-Central champs, won the NLDS against the Braves (a sweep), but then lost in the NLCS facing the New York Mets. Following his stint with La Russa, Warner was placed into the coaching saddle in 2001 in AA-New Haven which was followed by a coaching stint in 2002 at single-A club in New Jersey.
His success as a coach began to flourish in 2004 when he served as hitting coach for the minor league club in Peoria. In 2004, Warner led the Peoria club to achieve recognition as the Midwest League’s best club in hitting with a club .277 batting average.
In 2005, Warner was handed managerial duties first with Palm Beach and then promoted all the way to the AAA club in Memphis. He managed from 2005 to 2014 and recorded 734 wins and 730 losses for a .501 win-loss percentage.
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He was a 2005 George Kissell award winner in the Cardinals organization. During his managing stint in A and AA, Warner took his teams to the postseason five of his eight seasons. During his three seasons managing the Memphis Redbirds (AAA), Warner led the team to a PCL championship and into the postseason (albeit he suffered a similar fate to the 2000 Cardinals with which he started).
Warner was promoted to Assistant Field Coordinator for the St. Louis Cardinals minor league affiliates and player development systems in 2015. This greatness, coupled with his unmatched skills of leadership (yes, I’m looking at you, Mike Matheny), allowed the Cardinals to insert Pop into the house of cards that was the 2017 Cardinals clubhouse and dugout under Matheny.
Warner was brought to the Cardinals to offer his guidance and assistance to a team that was showing turmoil, poor fielding decisions, terrible bullpen management, boneheaded base running issues, and overall lack of management.
What should have happened did not happen. Ideally, Matheny should have stationed himself directly beside Warner and talked through everything. While this might have happened behind closed doors- we have no reason to believe this or deny it- we fans never saw this during games. Instead, Pop Warner was too often seen sitting at the far end of the proverbial bench and occasionally talking to players.
All indications are that Warner will be returning to his field coordinating and player development duties in 2018. That said, Pop is readily waiting in the wings should the organization wake up and realize that they have the wrong person steering the ship of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for more in this series.