By Anthony Schramm, from Cardsblog.com
In professional baseball, only two non-players on each team receive significant publicity: the manager and the general manager. The success of a team hinges on the ability of the manager to make line-up and in-game decisions while the general manager is responsible for constructing the roster.
When a team underperforms, these two guys carry the blame and are ultimately the first to go in attempt to right the ship. For the struggling Cardinals, the two men under the microscope are manager, Mike Matheny, and GM John Mozeliak. The issue with this mentality by Cardinals fans is that only one of these figures is deserving of the scrutiny.
The one who should be shouldering the blame is manager Mike Matheny. Poor usage of the bullpen and bench coupled with an abundance of mental mistakes are the reasons the Cards are reeling. All facets of this problem are a direct result of poor coaching and managing.
But since the GM and manager are clumped together by the public when it comes to overall success, John Mozeliak finds himself under fire by Cardinal fans. The gripes against Mo by Cardinal Nation are pretty clear, so let's break them down.
John Mozeliak Cannot Close A Deal
John Mozeliak has faced a lot of heat in the past by his inability to sign a marquee free agent while appearing to "finish second" to another team.
He lost in the pursuit of Albert Pujols after 2011 and David Price and Jason Heyward after 2015 as they signed monstrous long-term deals with the Angels, Red Sox, and Cubs, respectively. Would the Cardinals be better now with any of these guys taking up large amounts of payroll? Highly unlikely.
Albert Pujols' 10-year, $240 million contract is considered by some the worst contract of all-time as he's underproduced leaving the Angels mired in mediocrity with no farm system or financial flexibility. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have made the playoffs four consecutive years immediately following the departure of Pujols.
David Price's 7-year, $217 million contract has resulted in a 3.99 ERA and an extended DL stint. The Cardinals currently own the Majors' fourth best starters ERA at 3.61. Jason Heyward was the second worst offensive player in baseball in 2016 for the Cubs. His replacement in right field for St. Louis, Stephen Piscotty, was worth 1.2 wins more in 2016 (2.8 to 1.6) while being one of the Cardinals' most important hitters.
Yes, Mozeliak finished second in the sweepstakes for these players, but in reality, the Cardinals have likely been better off without them than with them. Not signing these huge deals have allowed the Cardinals to have the flexibility to build a more complete roster, which leads us to the next claim...
The Cardinals Have Not Acquired Any Star Power
This current Cardinals team possesses a poor offense and needs an anchor in the middle of its lineup, that much is very true. However, this need arises from under production by virtually every starting position player not named Jedd Gyorko or Kolten Wong. The Cardinals had the top offense in the National League just one year ago and replaced only one starter, Matt Holliday, with a more valuable offensive table setter in Dexter Fowler.
The struggles of the Cardinal offense aren't due to Mozeliak's decisions but rather the players themselves not living up to expectations. Mozeliak himself has stated that he is planning on addressing this problem by the trade deadline. This past Sunday in a press conference he stated that if the Cardinals are still in contention, moves will be made to fix the club's most glaring problems.
It is simply too early in the season to make a large impact move. Small moves have been made to improve the offense, however, with sending Grichuk down and replacing him with a red hot Tommy Pham and cutting ties with the aging Jhonny Peralta.
Star power does not equal success in Major League Baseball, a well rounded roster with great depth does. This is why the Cardinals have been perennial contenders and top-heavy teams like the Chicago White Sox have been forced to rebuild.
Mozeliak is the engineer behind the "next man up" mentality in the Cardinals organization that has created a seemingly endless supply of production. To give this up for the name recognition many fans desire would be detrimental to the organization leaving the club in an endless cycle of rebuild to contention rather than continuous success.
Mozeliak Inherited a Great Team, He Didn't Build One
Many claim Mozeliak inherited a great team from former GM, Walt Jocketty, which led the Cardinals to their success. While Jocketty did build a great core of Pujols, Molina, and Wainwright; Mozeliak made all the right moves to build a championship team around this core.
Do the Cardinals even make the playoffs in 2011 without the flier Mozeliak took on Lance Berkman after a poor 2010 with the Yankees? Berkman only went on to hit 31 home runs with a 4.8 WAR that year to make the all-star team on a one year $8 million deal.
Do they win the World Series without trading Jim Edmonds to the Padres for a PTBNL? Nope, because that player turned out to be World Series hero David Freese. The Matt Holliday trade and resigning was also a fantastic move by Mo along with the contract steals of Carlos Beltran in 2012 and Seung Hwan Oh in 2016.
John Mozeliak has made all the necessary acquisitions to maintain the Cardinals relevance in the parity filled MLB. While franchises have risen and fallen, the New England Patriots of baseball have been the lone constant near the top of the standings year in and year out.
This is due to Mozeliak refraining from making any high risk moves and handcuffing the organization from making the changes necessary to contend. After a losing season in 2007, the Cardinals were headed towards a rebuild but the hiring of Mozeliak led the Cardinals to a six year long playoff streak after just one season. To say Mozeliak's non-flashy tenure has been anything but brilliant is an understatement for one of the most successful GM's we've seen in recent memory.