Understanding John Mozeliak

The title is a little misleading. I’m not writing a book about how to understand another human. Heck, I barely understand me. I do think we learn about a man through his work, and Mr. Mozeliak is no exception. Since we just witnessed the epic trade deadline madness, we can add a little more knowledge to our cannon. If I may summarize what I believe to be his thought process as I understand it:

– Good hitters will hit. Those hitters will be given ample time to get it together, if they fail to do so.

– Pitchers will fail. They’ll become ineffective or injured at a rate greater than other players. They cannot be given chances at the Major League level to correct themselves.

– Pitchers (especially high ceiling ones) are harder to come by than position players. Stock up on as many as you can in the farm system.

– Prospects are extremely valuable, and especially the ones at the AAA level should not be quickly traded.

– When a good hitter doesn’t hit for long enough, he becomes expendable. His replacement may also hit poorly, but he’ll be cheaper, younger, and easier to get rid of.

– Chemistry counts in the clubhouse, but it isn’t worth much.

– Past performance is worth something. Specifically, it’s worth about one year of bad performance — if the team is performing well. If not, it’s worth about half a season.

– Even when making moves out of desperation, consider cost.

– A mediocre pitcher is still better than a bad one.

– Offense just has to happen on its own. Unless a Matt Holliday falls in your lap mid-season, you’re stuck with what you have. All management can do is lock down the pitching rotation as much as possible.

I don’t think I’m at 100% yet, but I think I’m getting close.

Mozeliak is frugal, very frugal. Of course, it isn’t really his money he’s playing with. He’s on to something. Most MLB players are overpriced, and St. Louis is a small market in baseball terms. That means they simply don’t have the media dollars to go after overpriced talent the way the Yankees can. Mo rolls the dice on minor league talent, buys out arbitration years, and reserves big free agent deals for proven winners. Seems like smart business to me.

He falls prey to overvaluing prospects. This week, we saw prospects become the important piece of multiple deals for big name current talent, but the closest the Cards got was dealing James Ramsey for Justin Masterson. It wasn’t much of a sacrifice to deal Ramsey as he was blocked from getting to St. Louis multiple times over. So Mo stays consistent, he is resistant to trading a prospect.

Judging by the draft, the team clearly favors pitching over any other position — including ones the team has very little depth at. This year’s draft is no exception. For a while, I thought the Cards were treating them as currency. But no, Mo really is just hoarding them. They simply fail too often not to have tons of extras laying around.

To be honest, his lack of moves frustrate me sometimes. I have to admit, however, that he is extremely successful…much more successful than I would likely be in his place. Having said that, it would really be nice to aggressively shop a bat. Holliday isn’t going to last forever. I think he’ll probably come down off his career average a little this year, but going beyond 2015 it becomes a real concern. Allen Craig proved to us that you can be amazing at the dish one year, and a total flop the next. If I were Mo, I’d like to believe I’d do a better job managing offense vs. defense. In reality, I probably wouldn’t.  His prevailing logic seems to be: here’s a core of guys who have proven they can hit the ball. It’s up to them to actually do it. If they don’t, they be dealt in due time. Mo isn’t going out and buying Matheny a new bat every time his coaching staff breaks one.

I don’t buy for a second that no bats were available at the trade deadline, or that there were no places to put them. Right field, center field, the bench, and even second base come to mind as possible candidates for upgrade. There is a fringe group on the net that believes no upgrades are possible. The team is simply as good as it can get. I don’t believe Mo thinks that for a minute. I do believe that he knows it and, for budgetary reasons, will ignore it in 2014.

Do we really understand Mo? Of course, not. But we can glean nuggets about his character based on the moves he’s made, and the ones he hasn’t.



  • Carl

    Wow, there was so much supposition on your part in that article I can’t even begin to respond to your points.
    Everybody has a rant based on their opinions of what others are thinking.
    Tell me, how do I get the opportunity to write something truthful based on fact?
    Does that get hits and pay the bills or are those days gone?

    • Dan Buffa

      Carl it’s called commentary. As Wes stated in the kindest of manners, its one man or woman’s opinion for the masses to digest. He isn’t asking his readers to agree in full with his take but only to respect it. If you disagree, thats fine. Berating Wes for his take isn’t the right way to respond but it’s not surprising either. Next time we can only hope you digest this commentary better.
      Also, the writers here aren’t paid. We do it for the love of the game, the craft and the Interaction. Thanks for reading.

      • Carl

        Sorry, I should’ve been more respectful. The long, underperforming season is getting to me.

  • keenemlb

    It’s an opinion piece. That’s a thing people write. You’re welcome to share your thoughts, factual or opinion, here in the comments or on your own site. Thanks for reading!

  • Carl

    I know it’s your opinion but There’s plenty of opinion on the internet based on guessing what’s behind the mind of Mo and MM.
    I’m just hoping someone will figure out their minds rather than criticize.

    Does anyone think Mo is a shrewd businessman and trader?
    He is frugal because his owner is frugal. There is nothing wrong with being frugal if you win, is there? It used to be considered wisdom.
    I think he overvalued picks so that one day they will be considered worth more than they are if he wants to trade them.
    How many guys have flamed after being ranked high? A lot. It’s not a science.
    I think AC is not as good as he was the last two years and Mo knows that. I think Joe was hyped too and he’ll be a reliever next year and Lackey is a far better pitcher for STL for the next two years.
    I also believe no great hitter is better than a great pitcher. If it was true, then hitters wouldn’t be out 7 of 10 AB’s.
    Pitchers win 70% of AB’s. Great pitchers 80%. I’ll take pitching.

  • keenemlb

    Hi Carl. I believe I did lay out a case for why Mo values pitching more than hitting, did I not? Also, you seemed to walk away from this article believing I was being critical of him, and I really didn’t intend to be. Please note the line where I said “If I were Mo, I’d like to believe I’d do a better job managing offense vs. defense. In reality, I probably wouldn’t.”

    In case, I need to be more clear: I have a great deal of respect for John. This piece was simply trying to dissect, in simple terms, some of the thinking that is behind his decisions. I am sorry it offended you.

    Also, I appreciate your thoughts on pitchers beating hitters more often than the other way around. Still, a team cannot win without effective hitting, obviously. There is a tough balance to achieve.

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