(Baseball StL) -- Baseball general managers never get much love.
Under constant pressure to produce magical trades, hire brilliant managers and constantly supply the big club with quality minor league talent, the general manager is the guy who gets little credit when it all comes together and the blame when it goes south.
So here are five reasons to appreciate Cards GM John Mozeliak.
1). The Cardinals minor league system was at one time rated on the worst in baseball. It is now rated No. 1. Prior to Mozeliak’s hiring in 2007, the Cardinals produced some trade throw-ins but only a handful of pure major league talent. A lot of Cardinal prospects were solid AA or AAA players who could never make the jump to the big club. Now, the Birds have an embarrassment of riches in starting pitchers and one of the brightest minor league prospects in outfielder Oscar Taveras. The result is a seemingly unending supply of talent as contracts expire and skills erode, plus trade potential for specific needs.
2). He didn’t foolishly pursue Albert Pujols after the Angels offered him an absurd contract. Mozeliak and the Cardinals made a very fair offer that probably exceeded Pujols’ worth over the life of the contract. When the Angels trumped it by many millions, Mozeliak and the Cardinals walked away, perhaps even breathing a sigh of relief. The Cards would liked to have kept Albert for a few years, but not 10 and not at nearly 30 percent of their entire payroll. The decision gave the Birds salary room and cleared the way for young players like Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter and gave Allen Craig a regular position. The fact that Pujols is currently hitting in the .230s is not reason to gloat, just reason to be relieved.
3). Trading Chris Duncan. In and of itself, perhaps not a major moment in franchise history. But Mozeliak made his bones with this move and proved he was his own man. Duncan, son of pitching coach Dave Duncan, had been a Cardinals first round pick and a contributor to the 2006 World Series championship. But his skills had badly deteriorated and his .225 average could no longer compensate for his horrendous fielding. In July of 2009, Mozeliak traded him to Boston for Julio Lugo, a utility infielder. Dave Duncan was furious and very vocal but from that time on, it was clear who was in control. This wasn’t Little League. It didn’t matter who your Dad was. Duncan was released by Boston a month later.
4). Shrewd trades. Trading big league players is risky business. You have to give up something to get something and sometimes they don’t work out, like Dan Haren for Mark Mulder. But Mozeliak made a couple of solid ones. He traded fading star Jim Edmonds for David Freese in 2007 and rid the Cardinals of the Colby Rasmus cancer in 2011. And, he brought over Rafael Furcal in July, 2011 whose infield play helped propel the Cardinals to the World Series.
5). He sent down Mark Rzepczynski. Some fans thought he was laying the failures of the Cardinals bullpen at Rzepczynski’s feet. He wasn’t. The feeling was Rzepczynski wasn’t working hard, hadn’t been serious and wasn’t performing up to abilities. But the message was to everyone. The St. Louis Cardinals are not a place to come to die. There are standards here, expectations that must be met because this is a winning franchise which routinely draws 3 million fans. Playing for us requires commitment to excellence and anything less than that will not be tolerated.