Cardinals' John Mozeliak acknowledged there is one trade he truly regrets

John Mozeliak seemed to care more about the context of bad moves than acknowledging the bigger issue, which irks Cardinals fans.
Feb 15, 2024; Tampa, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak
Feb 15, 2024; Tampa, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak / Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Cardinals fans are tired of their club letting go of talent that goes on to find success elsewhere, and the organization is too. Still, when asked about some of these former Cardinals who have won ALCS MVPs and competed for Cy Young Awards, John Mozeliak wasn't all that concerned about their big misses.

Mozeliak recently sat down with KSDK News to chat about a variety of topics (the full interview will be live on their station tonight), and they've begun posting clips from the interview on social media. Frank Cusumano, who did the interview, shared this portion of his conversation with Mozeliak, asking him about how he feels when he thinks about names like Sandy Alcantara, Zac Gallen, Randy Arozarena, and Adolis Garica.

Let me start with where I agree with Mozeliak because I do think he gets beaten down quite a bit for these mistakes. His point about the club continuing to make moves even when they've made mistakes is a fair one, although I do think they've been a bit gunshy since some of those bigger mistakes, leading to the deterioration of the value of guys like Tyler O'Neill, Dylan Carlson, and others that they appeared afraid to move on from until it was too late. The club cannot let those mistakes prevent them from making more moves.

Second, he's also right about the moves all having different contexts. The Ozuna one was a massive flop and he acknowledged that losing Sandy Alcantara and Zac Gallen hurts. He could have sat there and explained the process and line of thinking as he did with the other moves, but he just owned that one. But he did say they still are holding out hope on the Matthew Liberatore side of the Randy Arozarena deal, but I think he kind of has to say that at this point. He also brought up how every club in baseball passed on Adolis Garica multiple times, which is true.

But here's where I think this comments will irk some Cardinals fans.

First, Cusmano could have taken the conversation even further (and he may have when we see the full interview). You can look at other names like O'Neill, the aforementioned Marcell Ozuna, and how he's been great since leaving St. Louis, Jordan Hicks, Richie Palacios, Jack Flaherty, and more. It's become a concerning trend with the Cardinals, even with the context of every move being important to acknowledge.

Every team misses on talent evaluation. There is not a single club in baseball that you could say gets it right all the time. But the frequency and level of the Cardinals' "misses" in recent years is beyond concerning. It's become one of the main talking points from national media when they talk about the issues the Cardinals have.

Think about those moves for a moment. Every single one of those players above could have been in St. Louis still and they'd still mostly have their current group intact. Outside of Liberatore, Nick Robertson, and Andrew Kittredge, each of the players above who are now gone from St. Louis has left without bringing the Cardinals value in return. The club they could have right now, on paper, would be one of the best in baseball.

Here's the part I really think Mozeliak could learn from though. He cannot undo those mistakes, and I do believe they are trying to get better at not making them again. No one in the front office wants to give away talent. It doesn't mean they shouldn't be held accountable for their mistakes, but that's a whole other conversation.

The thing Mozeliak did in this conversation that has become a frustrating trend during his tenure is the lack of awareness of how his comments will come across. Here's the thing, most of what Mozeliak said is true or fair. He's not going to go out and call the Arozarena trade a bust and throw Liberatore under the bus like that. And frankly, Liberatore still has time to change the history of that deal.

But instead of answering that question the way he did, he could have said something like this, and it would have gotten that same point across while owning their failures.

"Yeah, when I hear those names, it is really frustrating. Frankly, we have let go of a lot of talent in recent years. It was never our intention to do so, and we have to figure out why both position players and pitchers have gone on to find success elsewhere. That problem begins and ends with me, and I'm working closely with our front office to ensure we end up on the right side of these deals going forward.

Fans are right to be frustrated. I believe in the talent we have in this organization, and I think our guys have bright futures ahead of them like the names you listed out. At the time of each of those deals, there was the context that led to those decisions, but frankly, when you can name as many as you did and could name even more, that's a sign of an organizational problem. All we can do now is get the next decision right."

See how different that sounds? It's still true to what Mozeliak was saying earlier, but instead of coming across as defensive, tone-deaf, or not fully acknowledging the weight of those mistakes, it puts the emphasis on what the front office got wrong, still sticks up for their current guys, and lets the fans know they want to do better.

I have tended to be more complimentary of Mozeliak than most and defend him a lot when others have gone after his ability as a front-office executive. The last few years have not been the kind of success that Cardinals' fans expect from this club, and these mistakes listed have played a major role in that. While I do believe it's probably for the best that Mozeliak steps away from the organization, I don't think he's bad at his job as many want to say.

But when comments like this are continuously made, it's hard to go on the defensive for Mozeliak. He knows fans are frustrated, I just don't know if he understands why his words are taken the way they have been.