Sports

John Mozeliak Talks St. Louis Cardinals

In a regular year, the St. Louis Cardinals will invite bloggers to talk with Present of Baseball Ops John Mozeliak and catch a game in a suite. Unfortunately, this isn’t a normal year. I received a surprise invite to a Zoom call with other bloggers to ask Mozeliak some questions. Normally, we have more questions about baseball; this year, it was more about the impacts of Covid-19 on the team. Here are some highlights.

  • They’ve seen “curveball after curveball” trying to get ready for the season. There has been a lot of changes to get games going. He doesn’t want to complain, since this is fresh content for normal people (versus watching re-runs on Netflix). A normal season stress is limited to wins and losses; this is something they have to take day by day. As the team gets through this road trip, he feels like he’ll have a better grip on what they are facing for the season.
  • The Marlins situation was a wake up call to players. They are fortunate to have players like Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina, who wear masks and will call out younger players who don’t.
  • Contact tracing is key to keeping situations like the Marlins from happening. The team has tasked Moises Rodriguez as the point man for this. The team wants to really keep tabs on players so they can tell who has been in contact with who. They are actively watching what is happening to other teams so they can learn from it. The trainers are very quick to point out when players/staff are not wearing masks. He feels that the team that stays the healthiest will have the best chance to win.
  • One thing Mo kept stressing is the struggles they are facing as an organization are nothing compared to those in the real world, like people who have lost jobs. He realizes that people are much worse off than those in baseball.
  • Mo was surprised that bloggers couldn’t get off mute.
  • Mo addessed his comments about looking outside of the organization for a replacement for Miles Mikolas. He said after he made the comment, he realized it would be taken out of context. They have the depth, pending health of guys like Alex Reyes and Giovanny Gallegos, and don’t feel like they will make a deadline move due to the uncertainty of everything. He feels like if they need to add depth to Springfield, they might have to look at guys on minor league deals.
  • As far as Kwang Hyun Kim as closer goes, Mo said he wanted a dynamic role with the team. He wanted to start, but they feel he’ll be most effective right now as a closer. They have innings eaters that can step into the rotation (Daniel Poncedeleon, Austin Gomber, although neither were named). Gallegos will be a set up man when he’s ready to come back.
  • The Cardinals pitching depth is a question mark for the team. Mo believes that pitching depth will be a key down the stretch, but the short season may not allow us to see the full depth.
  • The 60 man player pool has a variety of players – veterans and prospects. The risk of adding prospects is needing them in an emergency; if you bring too many prospects in and have a need for a proven player, you risk losing players on waivers/outrighting.
  • The 30-man roster has made his job easier, since there are guys that haven’t seen any game action yet.
  • Players in Springfield are there for one of 2 reasons: getting reps to fill in for the 25- to 30-man roster or to get some continued development (guys drafted in the last 2 years). Veteran players are able to work on what they need; he compared their work to backfield games at Spring Training where they can bat every inning. The prospects are there to continue development and learn about being in professional baseball; he’s worried that there will be no instructional camp this fall and this might be the only opportunity for some of these guys to work with coaches.
  • The Jupiter facility is open, but only John Brebbia and 2 other staff members are there; they would be worried about sharing the facility if more players were there for an extended period (Brebbia is only there for an hour or 2 per day).
  • The players will have a shorter leash this season than compared to the past. Since they are playing almost a third of the season, a guy on a slow start will impact the team more so than in the past. He also cautions that they will be a little patient because of the amount of early off-days and it prohibits players from getting a run.
  • The minor leaguers outside of Springfield are in contact with the front office; they talk with coaches and trainers bi-monthly to keep them on track and make sure they have everything they need. From what he can tell, they are working hard to stay in game shape. That said, he’s worried about stunted development for all players in the system; they see this year as a lost season. The best thing for the organization, though, is this is happening to all teams.
  • The only players at the Dominican Academy are from Venezuela, as they can’t travel back to their home country.
  • Mo is in favor of reducing the amount of minor league teams. He’s rather have more quality players than system filler. He’s also in favor of a higher wage for minor leaguers and providing them the best lifestyle (better pay, facilities, nutrition, “curriculum”). Unfortunately, the minors are pretty much on the back burner because they aren’t playing.
  • Mo would be in favor of extending the 30-man roster size past next week, since there is so much uncertainty.
  • Scouting is continuing, but very limited. Scouts are only allowed to make day trips (no over night stays). They are allowed to have 5 scouts travel to tournaments, but only 3 scouts may be at a game at a time (they rotate in); many of these opportunities are drying up though. They are trying to do as much as possible while games are still going on. At the Major League level, scouts are doing everything by video. He joked that scouts would have cursed him out a year ago for video scouting; now they love it. It could change they way they scout going forward.
  • The team will do something as far as cardboard cutouts; he doesn’t know if they will be fans or former players. He said this season is a time for them to do some weird stuff. He wants to do some fun stuff with the game this year to try to make the game fun for those that can’t be there.
  • When asked about fans in the stands, he said it will be difficult. It was hard to get the players back efficiently, so getting fans in will be a real challenge. He’s not ruling it out though.
  • The Black Live Matter issue was very divisive for fans; Mo’s email was filled with pros and cons. He wasn’t surprised, but he hoped that the game being back was enough to make people happy. He did try to reply to as many as possible.

Nothing too surprising, but it was interesting to see how things have changed in this shortened season. The Cardinals are a great organization to bloggers and I appreciate him taking time to answer our questions.

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