'Secret' no longer out for St. Louis

Posted: October 24, 2017 at 2:01 a.m.

Jose Oquendo will return to the St. Louis Cardinals as their third-base coach next season. Oquendo took
a leave of absence at the beginning of the 2016 season to have knee replacement surgery.

Jose Oquendo will return to the St. Louis Cardinals as their third-base coach next season. Oquendo took a leave of absence at the beginning of the 2016 season to have knee replacement surgery.

Many St. Louis Cardinals fans have lamented the deterioration of the team's defense and base running for the past two seasons as the franchise missed the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time since 2007-2008.

At least for the defense, the Cardinals might have solved the secret to returning its success.

St. Louis announced Monday that Jose Oquendo will return to the franchise as its third-base coach, and that fan favorite Willie McGee also will join the coaching staff in yet-to-be-named capacity.

Mike Shildt will move from third-base coach to bench coach and Ron "Pop" Warner will return to Manager Mike Matheny's staff as assistant field coordinator.

Oquendo is back to coach third base for the Cardinals, but he also well-known for his ability to teach and coach infielders on defense.

"We feel that by bringing the experience, past successes and baseball savvy that these three gentlemen possess to our major league coaching staff will be a strong benefit to our ball club," Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said in a statement. "Whether it's coaching, teaching, game analysis, game planning, etc., etc. ... these three men bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to our team."

Oquendo took a leave of absence from the coaching staff at the beginning of the 2016 season to have knee replacement surgery. Before that, he had spent 16 seasons with the club as third-base and bench coach.

Oquendo played for the Cardinals from 1986-1995 as a versatile infielder who spent most of his time as the Cardinals' regular second baseman alongside shortstop Ozzie Smith. His nickname was the "Secret Weapon."

McGee -- who played for the Cardinals from 1982-1990, and later from 1996-1999, and was named National League MVP in 1985 -- had spent the past three seasons with the Cardinals as a special assistant to the general manager. One of his roles was to travel around to minor-league teams and provide coaching and advice.

Of the Cardinals' eight-man coaching staff entering the 2017 season, only Matheny and hitting coach John Mabry remain.

Oquendo's return will be a welcome one by at least some of the players, as catcher Yadier Molina's instagram post during the season mentioning how much he missed Oquendo was liked by multiple Cardinals.

How much of the Cardinals' struggles on defense and base running were tied to Oquendo's absence is unclear, but if there is a significant turn around in 2018, the answer won't be a secret any longer.

Tight fit

The Cleveland Browns lost for the 25th time in 26 games with Sunday's 12-9 overtime defeat to the Tennessee Titans, so there's nothing new to report there.

The loss no one saw coming was that of left tackle Joe Thomas, the franchise's bedrock of excellence during a time of unfathomable lows.

Thomas was selected with the third pick in the 2007 draft, and he had played in all 10,363 Browns' snaps since then before tearing his triceps in the third quarter. It was announced Monday he will miss the rest of the season.

Before the diagnosis came down, the surefire future Hall of Famer had to squeeze into an MRI tube. The first result was that his humor survived the injury.

"The Geneva convention on torture (confinement, stress positions) was just violated when they wedged me into that MRI tube for 2 hrs. Yikes!" the 6-6, 312-pound Thomas said on Twitter.

SPORTS TRIVIA

Where did Joe Thomas play college football?

ANSWER

Wisconsin, where current Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema was the head coach during Thomas' senior season in 2006

Sports on 10/24/2017