2017 United Cardinals Bloggers event report – Part 1

UCB_11Last Sunday was the annual United Cardinals Blogger event sponsored by the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. I am going to break this report up into 2 blog posts, since it’s so long.  The first part will cover the John Mozeliak part of the question and answer session and what happened before that. The second part will cover the Bill DeWitt, Jr. part of the question and answer session and what happened after.

This year’s event was a little different than the last couple years in that we had to pick up our tickets at will call instead of the front office and that the question and answer session with John Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt, Jr. was held in the party room instead of a conference room or Cunningham Corner, like it was last year.

My son Phillip was my guest for this year’s event.  We took the Metrolink train to St. Louis from the East Side.  I thought I’d go to the will call windows on Clark Avenue, since they’re closer to the party rooms, but when I got there, I discovered I would have to go back to the 8th Street will call windows.  Ugh.

After we got our tickets, we entered gate 3 and made our way to the party room.  The Cardinals had put us in the Legends Club party room. It was nice, but darn it, I was hoping to see the Perficient Red Jacket party room.  Maybe next year, huh? Corey Shipley from the Communications Department was at the door to greet us and welcome us to the blogger event.  What a nice touch!

When I entered the party room, the first person I talked to was Mary Clausen of MLBVoice. She was supposed to ask me questions for last month’s UCB project, but for some reason, her email couldn’t get to me.  We made other arrangements for her to email her questions to me.

I saw Ron Watermon, the vice president of the Communications department, enter the room.  I asked him whether the Communications Department could email us the press releases with the Homestand Highlights a day earlier so that I could post them earlier. He said that they had discussed that and they were working on it, but sometimes they don’t get information until the last minute.

I found a place to sit where I could video the Q&A session. Mr. Watermon stepped up and welcomed the bloggers.  He mentioned Mary Beth Rea, who wasn’t in the room, as the person who put the blogger event together.  Ron introduced several members of the Communications department and talked about the Cardinals Insider show hosted by Ozzie Smith, which is not only on the air in St. Louis but on other stations nationwide as well.  Ron talked about the other changes in the Communications Department.

He then introduced general manager John Mozeliak.  We all politely applauded as Mo took his seat.  Mo asked whether we wanted him to talk first or do Q&A first. “Talk first,” someone shouted. We all laughed.  He joked that most people don’t want to hear him.  He spoke about the up and downs of the season and then spoke at length about the coaching changes on Friday.  Mo said that it was his responsibility to try and fix things and it gets complicated at times.   Mo said that when he looked back at the decisions that were made in the off season that they didn’t look too good.

Mo compared his job to a game of roulette – you put your money on the black or the red and see what happens.  Mo stated that Jedd Gyorko is the player who’s performing the best right now.  He stated that all the starters gave the team the chance to win but other things need to go right as well.

The first question was about Friday’s shakeup in the coaching staff, what went into making the decision, and whether it could have waited until after the All-Star break.  Mo stated that if the last road trip would have been a .500 road trip that the coaching moves wouldn’t have been made, at least not then.

The next question was about Jhonny Peralta and what went into the decision to DFA him.  Mo replied what it really came down to was if the Cards were better off keeping him or not.  Mo said the easiest way to think about his job is that he ranks players and there are variables involved for each player.  Peralta wasn’t happy being the 25th man on the roster and not getting any playing time.  There was no room for Peralta, so it was time to say goodbye.

The next question discussed launch angle and exit velocity and how the team uses the data that is available.  Mo discussed that catchers now set up high so batters have a harder time lifting a high fastball.  When the pitcher pushes up the strike zone, the batter will have to rethink his launch angle.  Hitters today will have to adjust to the high fastball.

The next question was about the bullpen and Brett Cecil’s issues, and whether Mo was considering picking up a reliever come the trade deadline.  Mo asked us whether any of us wanted to go to Michael Wacha and tell him he’s being moved to the bullpen.  A lot of nervous laughter ensued.  Heck no, we wouldn’t want to tell Wacha that.  Mo explained the difference in dollars at arbitration between being a bullpen pitcher and a starter.  Mo admitted that Cecil had not been pitching well and his velocity is down.  Mo surprise us all by stating that if Alex Reyes hadn’t landed on the DL that he was going to be a reliever and not a starter.   I think we all thought that Reyes was going to be a starter.

The next question was about internal moves versus position at the deadline.  Mo said that internal moves were something they always hope to do and he said he hoped that this is the end of staffing moves for this year.   Players want consistency and to know who they’re working with.  They’re unhappy when someone loses their job and they feel responsible.  Mo wants Mike Matheny and his staff to know they don’t have to watch their back.  If the staff is happy with status quo, then there will be changes.  In 4 to 6 weeks, they will look at where they are in the standings.  There are resources for a second half move if necessary.

The next question had to do with the lower spin rate on Cecil’s fastball and curveball and whether it was evidence of a potential arm injury.  Mo thought it was more mechanical and said that Cecil has assured him that he’s not hurt.  Mo thinks Cecil has an extension issue and his release point has changed.  Mo thinks these are problems that can be fixed midseason.

The next question asked about what kind of bat that is needed to add to the lineup. The questioner stated that the Cards hadn’t had a true 3-4 hitter since Beltran or Pujols.  Mo mentioned Holliday, and everyone giggled nervously.  Mo thought Carpenter was going to be a 3-4 place hitter, but Mo admitted he was wrong. Mo stated that adding a 3-4 hitter was going to be address and he listed 3 ways to do it:  trade, sign, or produce. Mo said they had bet on Grichuk for that role, but it came up craps.  Grichuk would fit nicely in the 3 or 4 hole if he can eliminate swings and misses.

The next question was about why the team was carrying 13 pitchers.  Mo said he wasn’t a big fan of this, but it’s what Matheny and his staff wanted.

The next question involved the team’s wooing of Luis Robert, the Cuban player that ended up signing with the White Sox.  Mo said that it was a money play.  He said they put a great video together (the communications video guy said it was even in Spanish).  Mo said he was 0 for 2 with videos.  Mo stated that he and Mr. DeWitt didn’t think they would get the return on investment on the type of deal that Robert would have commanded.

The next question was about the success of Magneuris Sierra.  Mo expressed his disappointment about losing Cordoba to San Diego via the Rule 5 pick.  The team was betting on that not happening, but it did.  Mo stated that Sierra is an exciting talented outfielder, but the outfield is deep in the minor league system.  The biggest question in the minor league system is whether any of the outfielders in the minor league system can be a 3 or 4 hitter.

The next question was about Carson Kelly and whether he was a possible offensive spark plug.  Mo stated that Kelly is having a robust year in the minor leagues and it was exciting to see.  Since Kelly is a conversion player, he needs to be playing every day.  Mo thought that although people wanted to see Carson at the major league level for a few days since Yadi was out with back stiffness, Mo said that he didn’t know that Yadi was going to sit for 3 straight days.  Mo says he can only go with the information he has.

The next question was about Sandy Alcantara.  He is ranked the 40th overall prospect, but his numbers don’t look great.  Mo said that Alcantara is throwing 102 MPH but not striking batters out.  Mo said that Alcantara is having problems with command and with his secondary pitches.  Alcantara is finding himself in a lot of hitters’ counts. When that happens, the pitcher can’t throw breaking pitches.  Mo compared Alcantara to Jack Flaherty, who blew through AA and is now pitching at AAA.  Mo thinks that Alcantara has a chance to be an elite starter but maybe we will see him out of the bullpen first.

The next question was about whether the Astros/Cubs model of not being competitive for 4 or 5 years good for baseball.  Mo said the model was going to change.  Mo then began to talk about the changes to the draft and how money is spent on draft picks, both in the U.S. draft and the international draft.  He mentioned that another change is how a team will be allocating money for the international draft and how there is a cap on how much a team can spend.  There is a tax if a team spends more than they are allotted.  Mo did state that if it got to a point where the team wasn’t going to win that they would take some of the older assets on the club, or those players that were going to become free agents, and trade them for younger players that would help the team in the next year or the near future.

The next question was about transparency by Mo and its effect on the blogosphere.  Mo stated that he thinks he’s fairly candid about what the team is doing and how it’s doing it.  Mo said that we did need to understand is that some things that are or aren’t happening can affect someone downstairs.  The press was asking about who was going to start in the doubleheader on Tuesday and he really didn’t know until yesterday.  He stated that Marco Gonzalez was going to start (a surprise to all of us and several of us gasped) and that he had to have a conversation with Marco, who was going to pitch and a conversation with Luke Weaver, who was not.  Mo stated when you’re in a certain position, you have to think about who is going to hear your message.  Mo stated that the general public has an interest in the Cardinals, but the minor league player also want to know what management is thinking about things, and so does the clubhouse.  Mo says he always tries to understand who he’s saying things to and when, and the timing of what he has to say does matter.  Mo said that he’d like to tell us exactly how they think, but if they did that, he would probably be out of a job.  Everyone in the room laughed nervously.

The next question had to do with the success of the Cardinals and how continuity is huge with one owner, two GM’s and two managers, and how the Cardinals make sure there wasn’t groupthink.  Mo stated that the one thing they do is challenge each other.  People need to be pulling in in the same direction and there has to be collaborative groupthink.  Mo stated that he has had arguments with Mr. DeWitt Jr., and with Mike Matheny.  Mo says that everyone pushes each other.  There is one thing that happens whenever the team is thinking of doing a big trade or pick up a big free agent.  One person is assigned to be the devil’s advocate, and that person has to state anything bad that might happen if this deal is done. Mo has even been the devil’s advocate. They always take a night to think about big decisions.  Mo said they don’t always get it right.

The last question asked was about how many hours Mo slept at night.  Mo said he wasn’t sure, probably around six hours.  He said he was well rested, due to good vodka.

The next question was whether Jack Flaherty was going to start the doubleheader on Tuesday.  Mo thought he said that he already announced that Marco Gonzales was going to start the doubleheader.

Listening to all the questions posed to Mo and the answers he gave made me realize I was glad I didn’t have his job.  Mo shocked us all by stating he read our blogs.  If you’re reading this, Mo, thanks for always being honest and candid with us when we ask you all our questions. We appreciate that you read our work – I’m sure you have other things to do that are more important.

Be sure to come back and read part 2 of the UCB blogger event report featuring the Q&A with Bill DeWitt, Jr. and the reports from the team chef about the food in the party room and the new retail items available. Thanks for reading and see you next time!


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