Without fanfare, without bow tie, and even without those black-rimmed glasses, John Mozeliak entered the open space outside the executive offices in the upper level at Busch Stadium last Sunday. He slipped past the podium that stood front and center before the v-shaped chair arrangement, now filled with anxious bloggers and fans.
He’d played this game before. He knew we wanted answers.
Soon enough, he’d give them.
Just an hour before Carlos Martinez would throw the first pitch of his second start in 2014, the man with all the power looked as if his mind was elsewhere. Little did we know then that Jaime Garcia would (or had) not finish a bullpen that morning. Neither would Michael Wacha. Both were disabled list bound. Soon enough, Mozeliak’s words to the United Cardinals Bloggers would ring ever more true:
Whether he was balancing the weight of the Cardinals’ world on his shoulders that morning or not, he was, as he always is, candid and thoughtful as he opened with his own thoughts on the first half of 2014.
“Things never go as planned,” he said as he recounted the frustration thus far.
Crafting a team with offense in mind, then watching that team hover near the bottom of offensive rankings through the last week in June? Apparently that’s just as bothersome to the man who put the pieces together as it is to the fans watching the puzzle fail to take shape.
About halfway through, he stopped and said, “I thought you’d ask hard questions. I read all your tweets!”
Touche, good sir.
Admittedly, many questions that had been discussed at the UCB Dinner the evening before stayed between us bloggers. You can only ask “WHY ISN’T OSCAR PLAYING IN ST. LOUIS????” so many ways.
Speaking of Taveras, a question was raised regarding the strategy of the Oscar Experiment.
“The Matt Adams injury was a great time to bring him up,” Mo said.
Taveras started strong – the homerun in game one, another hit in game two. But, Matheny was left with the decision of how to find playing time for Taveras. The answer became murky when Adams returned.
“I told Matheny, if he’s here he needs to play,” Mozeliak said. “He can’t gain service time sitting on the bench. Right now, he needs at bats five days a week.”
That wasn’t going to happen at the Big League level. So, down he goes. Though, don’t be surprised when he returns at some point this season. And if he does …
“I imagine next time he’s here, it’s for good.”
With the trade deadline just around the corner and the rumor mill spinning at breakneck speed, Mozeliak also shared his approach to sorting through the mid-season possibilities. It was, as expected, both logical and refreshing.
“The last thing you want to do is say you’re not going to do something,” he said, and then explained.
Quite strongly, Mo stated that he’s not interested in trading Oscar Taveras. But, he followed, should someone offer the Cardinals “three Oscar’s” in return, it would be foolish to not make such a move.
The key, he said, is to refrain from making capricious decisions as an all-in attempt to change things up.
“I don’t want to make irrational decisions for today at the cost of tomorrow,” he concluded.
That is, perhaps, the characteristic I appreciate most about Mozeliak’s managerial philosophy. Sure, sometimes we question how long he holds a player back, how little he’s willing to put on the line. But, he’s the man with a plan, and more often than not his unwavering confidence in the idea of building from within turns out just fine.
And, as forthright as he often is with a room full of news-hungry bloggers, he made sure to share one more thing:
“If there’s one takeaway from all of this, it’s that internal dynamics are not always what they appear.”
And with that, he moved on to more important things, like recalling Pete Kozma … for a couple days, at least.
Ah, the glamourous life of a General Manager.