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John Mozeliak

John Mozeliak
Mozeliak in 2011.
Born (1969-01-18) January 18, 1969 (age 45)
Nationality American
Education University of Colorado
Occupation Management
Employer St. Louis Cardinals
Title General Manager
Predecessor Walt Jocketty
Spouse(s) Julie Mozeliak

John "Mo" Mozeliak (born January 18, 1969) is the current Senior Vice President and General Manager (GM) of Major League Baseball's (MLB) St. Louis Cardinals. So far his only GM position, the Cardinals hired Mozeliak as the twelfth GM in franchise history after the 2007 season after serving and training as Walt Jocketty's assistant. Two of Mozeliak's trades proved key to the Cardinals' 2011 World Series-winning season, acquiring relievers to help stabilize an inconsistent bullpen and third baseman David Freese, whose come-from-behind hits propelled St. Louis to win the Series in record-breaking fashion. The Cardinals' minor league farm system has received numerous accolades and high rankings due its dramatic improvement during Mozeliak's era. Entering the 2013 season, Mozeliak's teams have a .542 winning percentage –– each finished with a winning record –– along with one World Series title, two National League pennants, and three total playoff appearances. He is currently signed through the 2016 season.

Early life and career beginnings

Mozeliak attended Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado. He played for the school's baseball team as a pitcher and first baseman. He also played American Legion baseball.[1] Mozeliak attended the University of Arizona before ultimately graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder.[2]

In 1993, Mozeliak was introduced to Bryn Smith, pitcher for the Colorado Rockies, by Jay Darnell, the Rockies' video coordinator. Smith was looking for a location to go fly fishing. A few days after Mozeliak took Smith fly fishing, the Rockies invited Mozeliak to serve as a batting practice pitcher, since they needed someone who could throw left handed. Dante Bichette took a liking to Mozeliak, and they created a clubhouse job for Mozeliak. He began to work with Bob Gebhard, the Rockies' general manager (GM), and Walt Jocketty, the assistant GM.[1][2]

St. Louis Cardinals (1995–present)

Roles in the scouting department (1995–2007)

When Jocketty was hired as the GM of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1995, Mozeliak went to St. Louis as well. He served as an assistant within the scouting department and later spent five seasons as Jocketty's assistant GM.[1] He became the assisting scouting director in 1998. The next season, Mozeliak was promoted to scouting director and oversaw the drafting of talent such as Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina.[3] He garnered much attention as a major up-and-coming GM in the industry and interviewed with the Cincinnati Reds and Houston Astros.[4]

General manager (2007–present)

On October 3, 2007, Chairman of the Board of Directors Bill DeWitt announced that the Cardinals had mutually parted ways with Jocketty and "had cordially and respectfully" done so on philosophical differences of player development.[5] Mozeliak then took over as interim GM. Tension arose dating back to 2006 after Jeff Luhnow, now the Astros' GM, was promoted to vice president of amateur scouting and player development. After more than a decade as GM, Luhnow's promotion tacitly signaled he had usurped that sphere of Jocketty's authority.[6] While DeWitt interviewed other candidates for the position, it appeared Cleveland Indians assistant GM Chris Antonetti was the early favorite. However, Indians ownership improved Antonetti's offer to take over the full GM position and enticed him to stay. On the evening of October 30, 2007, Mozeliak accepted the Cardinals' offer and was formally introduced as the new GM the next day.[7]

Early moves

One of Mozeliak's first major moves was to trade iconic center fielder Jim Edmonds to the San Diego Padres for third baseman David Freese on December 15, 2007. Although stating regret at first over trading the popular but often-injured Edmonds, Freese later proved to be integral in the Cardinals' 2011 season.[8]

In 2009, Mozeliak acquired slugger Matt Holliday in a trade with the Oakland Athletics and signed him to the richest contract in team history the following January, valued at $116 million.[9][10] Through the beginning of August 2013, Holliday has produced a .900 OPS at a league-average adjusted OPS rate of 145 as a Cardinal, compared to 136 for his career.[11] On September 26, the Cardinals clinched their first division title during Mozeliak's tenure as GM against the Colorado Rockies.[12] However, they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS.[13]

The Lance Berkman contract

The Cardinals announced that Mozeliak endorsed a new three-year contract extension with the team through 2013 on July 15, 2010.[14] The following offseason, Mozeliak created a stir––even drawing ridicule––for inking 34-year-old Lance Berkman to a one-year, $8 million contract on December 4. Due to his 2010 results of a .248 batting average with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs in 122 games with the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, opinions circulated that he was too old to continue to produce at his former levels.[15] However, Berkman dramatically improved his physical shape in the offseason. Early the next season, hitting coach Mark McGwire corrected a flaw in Berkman's swing that had been introduced by leg injuries and he responded with a .301 batting average, 31 home runs and 94 RBIs.[16] His 164 OPS+ was the highest of his career and his accolades for the year included an All-Star appearance, the NL Comeback Player of the Year award and seventh place in the MVP voting.

The path to the 2011 World Series

Mozeliak brandished what proved to be the one of the exceptional in-season moves to shape the 2011 season on July 27. He traded the highly regarded but troubled center fielder Colby Rasmus, relievers Trevor Miller, P.J. Walters and Brian Tallet to the Toronto Blue Jays for starter Edwin Jackson, relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski, outfielder Corey Patterson and three players to be named or cash.[17][18] Still 10.5 games short of the wild card berth after 130 games on August 25, the Cardinals ended the season on a 22-9 run while capitalizing on the Atlanta Braves' collapse to avoid elimination on the season's final day, capping one of Major League Baseball's epic regular-season comebacks.[19] Dotel and Rzepcynski proved to factor significantly in making up the 10.5 games as they helped stabilize questionable bullpen performance. Dotel posted a 3.28 ERA and struck out 32 of the 96 batters he faced.[20] Rzepcynski posted a 3.97 ERA.[21] Jackson started twelve games for the Cardinals and posted a 3.58 ERA, winning five games and losing two.[22] The 10.5 games-won deficit is also the highest-surmounted at 130 games in MLB history.

In the postseason––the Cardinals' second appearance during Mozeliak's tenure as GM––Freese set the single postseason RBI record with 21. He also salvaged the Cardinals from elimination in the World Series against the Texas Rangers by driving home the tying run on the final strike in the ninth inning of Game 6 –– which was accomplished again later that game. Tying the score twice on liquidation strikes in one game was the first such occurrence in World Series history.[23] Berkman became the second batter to tie the game on the team's final strike in the ninth inning or later with a two-run single in the tenth. Freese then halted the game in the eleventh with a home run off Mark Lowe.[24] Berkman and Freese became just the third and fourth hitters in World Series history to knock game-tying hits where the alternative was elimination.[25] Driven primarily by the Rasmus and Freese trades and the Berkman acquisition, Mozeliak concocted his first World Series title culminating in a game that "ranks among the greatest games in Fall Classic history" and "one of the greatest thrillers in baseball history."[26][24]

Albert Pujols' free agency

Following the 2011 World Series, the Cardinals found themselves in the position of having to negotiate to re-sign iconic first baseman Albert Pujols when he filed for free agency on December 1. The Cardinals had offered $198 million over nine years the previous January. After the season concluded, the Cardinals reopened their bid with five years and $130 million.[27] Other teams reportedly pursuing him were the Miami Marlins and two "mystery teams." The Marlins' offers were for nine years, then ten, but at first neither monetary figures were disclosed nor information was available on whether a no-trade clause would be included.[28] The Cardinals increased their offer to $200 million over ten years, then $220 million; however, the two unidentified teams eclipsed the initial offer. Miami offered $200 million then $225 million.[29][30] Pujols then signed with one of the two anonymous teams on December 8 which had been revealed through rumors just a few days before –– the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim –– for $254 million over ten years.[31]

After signing with the Angels, Albert Pujols' wife, Diedre Pujols, commented on a St. Louis radio show that what the Cardinals had offered was an "'insult" and that they were "confused" after being told "'we want you to be a Cardinal for life.'"[27] Even so, Pujols' performance decline started before he became a free agent: in 2012, he finished in career lows in multiple categories, and in 2013, plantar fasciitis cut his season short.[32]

Farm system turnaround

Despite the Cardinals' major league success in the 21st century spanning well before Mozeliak's tenure as GM –– they have just one losing season and nine playoff appearances since 2000 –– the farm system had lagged behind until more recent seasons. Between 2000 and 2007, the highest rank the farm system garnered was 21st; between 2002 and 2005 it "ranked 30th, 28th, 28th and 30th."[33][34] After 2011, Baseball America bestowed the Cardinals franchise with their first Organization of the Year award.[35] Seventeen of the 25 players on the 2011 playoff roster were players who had spent their entire careers with the Cardinals.[36] ESPN's Keith Law and Baseball Prospectus also ranked the Cardinals organization #1 for the 2013 season.[37][38]

Adam Wainwright and Allen Craig contracts

On February 14, 2013, the Cardinals extended Mozeliak's contract by three years to end after the 2016 season.[39] Late in spring training 2013, right-handed starting pitcher Adam Wainwright agreed to a five year, $97.5 million extension that runs through 2018, the richest contract the Cardinals have awarded to a pitcher.[40] That spring, the Cardinals also signed first baseman Allen Craig to a five year, $32 million contract.

Awards and honors

Personal life and other ventures

Mozeliak, his wife Julie, daughter Allison and son Will reside in St. Louis. He is the National Trustee for the Foundation Fighting Blindness.[3]

References

External links

  • Front Office - St. Louis Cardinals
Preceded by
Walt Jocketty
St. Louis Cardinals General Manager
2007
Succeeded by
Incumbent
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