For most Cardinals writers, a method such as inception would be preferable when interviewing General Manager John Mozeliak. Getting inside the head of the most important mind in Busch Stadium is primal for any aspiring sports writer. On Saturday morning, I had a chance to get the latest on the team from Mo.
Mozeliak is polite, blunt, and forthcoming at the same time while retaining a dry wit about his presence. He knows we have questions and just need answers. He never dodges a questions and continued that routine this morning.
“We felt like we were able to accomplish improvement for the 2014 season. Clearly there will be question marks heading into camp, but we should have a competitive camp.”
An update on white hot prospect Oscar Taveras was the first big topic on the agenda. “From a physical standpoint, Oscar is in the best shape of his life and should be ready to go in the spring He’s able to move a lot of weight right now and the doctor maintained there would be no setbacks.”
Bringing Oscar to St. Louis for a look and the Winter Warmup (signing today from 2pm-4pm) was a no brainer because of the amount of staff with the team and getting him exposure here.
When Joe Strauss asked about the arrival of Taveras comparing to the launch of Albert Pujols in 2001 as far as making the team is concerned, Mozeliak said the hype for Pujols wasn’t as crazy as it is for Oscar.
“That’s a way to look at it. When Pujols was coming up, no one had him on their major league radar. He came out of nowhere. We knew there was a talent, but not quite the career path he took. With Taveras, we have known all along it was there but it has been delayed by injury.”
When discussing the loss of power in Allen Craig, Mo still thought there was a different of power in the slugger’s production. “He still showed gap power, and I never get concerned with home runs. As a team, we ranked lower in home runs but right up there in run production. So I will take that trade off any day of the week.”
I will elaborate more on Chris Carpenter’s role with the team later, but Mozeliak did note that he has met with the retired pitcher and that he will be with the team.
“He is on board, albeit without the tees being dotted on the line. He wants to do something and we want him to do something.”
Carpenter won’t be a 9-5 coat and tie guy, but he will be in spring training participating in a scouting program and helping with the players.
Mozeliak is not concerned at all with Jaime Garcia’s health and based his absence this weekend on a family matter. He does find the role of Garcia this season to be interesting.
“It’s hard to imagine him in a reliever role. The critical thing is optimizing the talent there and he is a part of that.”
When asked what the Clayton Kershaw record setting contract did to the market, Mo was blunt.
“Naturally, when you sign something like Adam, him and his agent knew Kershaw was going to get something big. A year ago, we didn’t know what defined big. Having said that, if that was on the board today(signing Wainwright), it would pull it up. We are fortunate to have signed him early.”
“We(Cardinals) try to offer an attractive product. Adam knew that if he had tested the market, he would have done better. He knew that and all of you did.” Once again, Mo never shies away from rougher questions and gives an assessment every time.
Daniel Descalso and the team may be headed to arbitration(which would be the first Cardinal case) and Mo had nothing new to add other than the two sides aren’t that close.
David Freese and Carlos Beltran left the team this winter and Mo said it is another chance for another player to step up.
“Any time you look at trading a player, it’s never easy. In this particular case, it became a clinical approach at getting the deal done. These type of things are never fun, but you have to understand that the market is so competitive that you can’t pass up something that may be more than just a band aide type trade.”
With the instant reply ruling coming down down officially initialized, Mo was excited because he wanted something done and was surprised it came down so quick. A ruling that each manager has 2 challenges to make on close plays in the regular season is a huge leap from being able to do nothing when an umpire misses a call. Mo definitely was glad something got done.
“I was an advocate for something more. This is a giant step from where we’ve come from. Situations where 40,000 people know the answer and you can’t do anything to now is great. Everybody had their opinions, but I applaud what they have done and it’s giant step.”
When asked about moving quickly this offseason in improving the team, Mo was glad to stay ahead of the market.
“You don’t get too deep into the market and it could have been a distraction. The longer we don’t address the shortstop position, writers may have started assuming who we have traded so you never know.”
His thoughts on protecting catchers was fairly easy and straight forward. The more protected his Gold Glove plate stopper is, he is comfortable.
“We’ve come so far that we should try to protect that. Whether it’s the catcher or the player. For selfish reasons, we have the best player in the game so keeping him protected is smart.”
Mozeliak handles the press room like a pro and never feels like questions are off base or coming from out of nowhere. He just stands there and takes it. That is exactly what you want from a general manager of a beloved baseball team.
Expect more from me later in the day on Carpenter’s move to the front office, Adam Wainwright’s thoughts on Shelby Miller and general recap news from the first day of the winter warmup.
Dan Buffa is the co-creator, administrator and writer for the movie website, film-addict.com. He also contributes to United Cardinal Bloggers, Arch City Sports, Aaron Miles Fastball, Voicesfilm.com and writes for his personal blog,www.doseofbuffa.com. He is also a published writer for the Yahoo Contributor Network. Dan is a St. Louis, Missouri born and raised writer with a need to inform and the ability to pound out 1,000-1,500 word pieces with ease. When he isn’t writing or drinking coffee, he is spending time with his wife and son in South City. Follow him at @buffa82 on Twitter and reach him for thoughts, comments and general feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.