St. Louis Cardinals: John Mozeliak, the most powerful sports figure in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 30: John Mozeliak of the St. Louis Cardinals speaks to the crowd at Busch Stadium during the World Series victory parade for the franchise's 11th championship on October 30, 2011 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Szczepanski/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 30: John Mozeliak of the St. Louis Cardinals speaks to the crowd at Busch Stadium during the World Series victory parade for the franchise's 11th championship on October 30, 2011 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Szczepanski/Getty Images) /
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John Mozeliak’s promotion to the President of Baseball Operations for the St. Louis Cardinals makes him the most powerful sports figure in St. Louis.  To understand this, one must realize how important the executive of baseball operations is to any MLB franchise today.

This past season, the St. Louis Cardinals promoted John Mozeliak to President of Baseball Operations and installed Michael Girsch as GM. This shift is very important to the Cardinals.

The organization of MLB franchises has become more complex over the last decade.  They now deal with increases in salaries, revenues, draft slotting, and international spending limits.  Most franchises also now have an analytics department to assist with player development.  Consequently, a MLB franchise has become much more difficult to manage.

Ownership also finds itself looking for ways to keep increasing revenues to keep up with the cost demands of running a franchise.  As new stadiums are built, entertainment complexes are developed around them.  These complexes are part of the overall long-term strategy to increase revenue for the franchises.  Such is the case for the St. Louis Cardinals and Ballpark Village.

To address these complexities, many MLB franchises are creating a chief executive position to oversee all baseball operations.  Essentially a new position, this executive is placed between ownership and the GM position.

The baseball executive position has control over all aspects of salaries, drafting, player development, roster management, and the minor league system.  The GM position is now essentially an assistant to the chief baseball executive.  The GM will handle details of waivers lines, roster moves, day to day agent player issues, etc.

The chief baseball executive has the responsibility of strategic planning for the MLB organization concerning any baseball issues.  The GM is more dedicated to the day to day issues that would consume the organization.

This organizational move allows the ownership of the organization to focus on revenue issues that fall outside the daily, medium term, or long term baseball decisions.

Many MLB franchises have already moved to this model.  In 2011, the Chicago Cubs hired Theo Epstein away from the Boston Red Sox to be their President of Baseball Operations.  Epstein was given complete authority to rebuild the Cubs and give that loyal, but frustrated fan base a World Championship. As a result, by 2016 he achieved that goal.

Other MLB franchises have also followed the Cubs model, such as the White Sox, Braves, Diamondbacks, and Dodgers to name a few.  Most have a GM reporting directly to the chief of baseball operations.

These executives have much more power than most of the GMs had in the past.  Owners such has George Steinbrenner, August A. Busch, Jr, and Ted Turner ran their franchises with unchecked authority.

The power of these GMs varied from franchise to franchise, but many were just errand runners for the owner. Under this previous model, GMs didn’t always have control of the minor league system, drafting, player development, salaries, or sometimes even roster management.

The President of Baseball Operations now has the most power in any MLB franchise as ownership takes a back seat to concentrate on revenue issues.

This is what essentially has happened with the St. Louis Cardinals.  Bill DeWitt has turned over all of the above aspects of the organization to John Mozeliak.  With this power, however, also comes the responsibility of returning the St. Louis Cardinals to World Champion contenders.  To achieve this, Bill DeWitt gave Mozeliak a contract that runs through 2020.

As stated, Mozeliak’s primary mission is to return the St. Louis Cardinals to World Series and win.  Consequently, Mozeliak needs to be free of much of the daily responsibilities of the GM: the daily volume of phone calls, paperwork, media relations, and comforting managers and coaches, will now fall to Michael Girsch.

Since his promotion in June, Mozeliak has been doing a comprehensive analysis of every area of  St. Louis Cardinals baseball.  One area of focus has been the teaching and instruction of young talent.  This includes both the big league and minor league levels.

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Additionally, Mozeliak will have authority over all personnel decisions.  The decision to upend manager Mike Matheny‘s coaching staff and bring in new faces was an entirely Mozeliak’s decision.  The firing of Chris Maloney, Derek Lilliquist, Derrick May, and Blaise Isley  is part of the organization evaluation process.  Also, the hiring of Mike Maddux, Willie McGee, and the return of Jose Oquendo to the major league club is another Mozeliak move.

Most noteworthy,  John Mozeliak will have final say over Mike Matheny’s future.  Keep in mind this is John Mozeliak’s St. Louis Cardinals coaching staff, not that of Mike Matheny.

Bill DeWitt and the ownership group has given this power to Mozeliak and are allowing him to make any moves he feels necessary to restore the St. Louis Cardinals to championship caliber.  This includes coaches, free agents, trades, and minor league development.

With power that no previous GM or Cardinal executive has had in the past, Mozeliak has become the most powerful sports figure in St. Louis.  Yes, Mozeliak still answers to Bill DeWitt, however, for the next few years he will be the unquestioned power of the St. Louis Cardinals.

The St. Louis Cardinals are the “blue chip” sports franchise in St. Louis.  Furthermore, the St. Louis Blues are really just a “little sister” organization compared to the Cardinals.

As a result, John Mozeliak, President of Baseball Operations for the St. Louis Cardinals, is now the most powerful sports figure in St. Louis.

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