Posted on January 15, 2012 at 9:10 AM
Filed Under: St. Louis Cardinals
| United Cardinal Bloggers
One would think a man who manages a $110 million payroll and just won perhaps the most improbable World Series Championship in history would be a bit cold...calculating...cautious.
Not so with John Mozeliak.
The man recently named "Executive of the Year" by MLB.com is anything but distant and suspicious. Recently appearing before a gathering of fans at the 2012 Winter Warm-Up in St. Louis, the GM (known as "Mo" to most) seemed relaxed...calm...open.
One would hardly guess that little more than a month ago, he slipped out a side door of his Winter Meetings hotel, boarded a plane, and attempted to gather his thoughts after presiding over the departure of this generation's greatest hitter...beloved Cardinal, Albert Pujols.
Given a moment to reflect on the outcome of negotiations he called "exhausting and frustrating" in the media room, Mo briefly described his emotional state.
"[I] was down," said Mozeliak. "I mean frankly, I was
like you get vested in a negotiation and one that was as exhausting as this one
was...it was very emotional. At that point it was more about taking a quick time
out...trying to asses our situation as best we could and prepare. Fortunately I
was able to hop on a plane and gather my thoughts before we addressed the media. And I do think that was beneficial."
The personable GM has demonstrated an openness with fans and others before. Previously engaging in now-infamous chats with Cardinal fans on StlToday.com, Mozeliak was candid, honest...and even a bit playful with questions and comments that were less than pleasant in their presentation. Some would say the chats ceased because John was too candid and too willing to engage fans in what he perceived as a simple exchange of wise-cracks and friendly jabs.
And again, just last season, during the United Cardinal Bloggers Day at Busch Stadium, Mozeliak engaged bloggers (better known as "super fans with a voice") in a thirty minute question and answer session before the game. He fielded questions about Theriot and the pending Pujols contract negotiations, chatting with fans in an informal setting that had the feel of a fireside chat rather than a press conference. Upon leaving, Mo noticed a baby in a stroller near the door, touched her head, smiled, and said, "Gotta' kiss the baby."
Hardly the face of a stone-cold negotiator.
Flash forward the length of a season. The Cardinals are World Champions - largely due to the daring trades the GM was able to construct mid-season - Albert and Tony are gone, and Mozeliak walks down the hall and enters the media room, pausing briefly along the way to lean in and discuss things intimately with familiar faces. He does that when he speaks with people. He gets in close, breaking the "personal bubble" barrier to establish a cordial conversation rather than a distant discussion.
Then he stands at the podium, facing down scribes and TV personalities in an aptly-named media "scrum." He's in control, launching into a casual "state of the organization" speech before the first question is asked - pausing once to accommodate a late arrival ("Are you ready? Ok...I'll start over.") - asking, "Now, who is Leach's replacement?", shaking hands with the new scribe ("Oh...welcome!"), and settling in for yet another fireside chat.
For the most part, he meets each question with a well-worded, professional response...but every so often, the temptation to break out "playful Mo" is too much to control.
"Oh...ya' think so?" he answers sarcastically, a response to a comment stating the bench is undergoing some fine-tuning. He gets a chuckle and continues.
A few moments later, well after the Albert Pujols line of questioning has ended, I frame my question with, "Mo, I hate to bring you back to this..."
Mo: "Then don't," with a bit of mock why-would-you-do-that-to-me tone.
Me: "Uh...what was that?" temporarily thrown off by the unexpected teasing. He said it again. I chuckled and said, "But I have to..."
Mo: "Oh...well, ok," with feigned resignation.
Later, when it was just Mo and myself at the entrance to a separate media room, he asked for my name. I gave it, quickly explaining I was a blogger here with a group of bloggers invited by the Cardinals to cover the Winter Warm-Up. "Oh, great," he said sincerely, and then answered my question.
As he walked away, he offered a parting apology.
"Sorry about giving you a hard time earlier," he said. "I'm just a wise-[rear] by nature. It's what I do."
I quickly said, "Oh, no...that was fine. I didn't mind at all."
And then I turned to a fellow blogger and said, "What's he talking about? I loved that!"
A Bit More...
* That question I asked Mo was in regards to accolades such as Organization of the Year, etc. "Organization of the Year is great because it recognizes what we've done top to bottom in the organization."
* Mo expanded on various things that have been reported elsewhere: K-Mac very likely to be with the club in the future (rumors of shopping pitchers simply because team has so much depth), Tyler Greene going to be given every opportunity to play at 2B and get ABs, and Albert Pujols negotiation results put no pressure on anyone with regards to the Yadi contract talks in the future.
* Mo said, "I don't think Yadi loves the autograph process." Says he spoke with Yadi's agent and expects Yadi to make a donation to cover the loss of charitable income from his absence.
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