Oh, here we go. Let me first tell you a story. Not too long ago -- remember back when the Cardinals were rolling with the best record in the league? -- I sat in the Washington press box and listened to a call-in radio show because it was happening without earshot. And apparently one of the call-ins said something about Rizzo and the host of the show, sitting about 20-25 feet away from me, shouted that Rizzo was one of the five best GMs in the game. One of the best. I fought the urge to get up and ask him for the entire list to make sense of that statement. Zero playoff series wins. Lots and lots of big-time contracts. Two young, excellent outfielders, for sure. But how many division titles? How much return from having the best pitcher and the best outfielder in the National League for several years together? I wonder what the metric is these days, other than proximity. Maybe he thought Rizzo was nearby or listening.
That brings us here.
I think it says a lot about a GM what other GMs/Presidents say about him. To other GMs, Mozeliak is one of the best when it comes to organizational structure in the game. Seriously. The Cubs, the Brewers, the Rockies, and a handful of other teams I have talked to through the years have all told me that they borrow from how Mozeliak & DeWitt built the minor-league system and organized it. Heck, the Cubs, when Dave McKay joined their coaching staff, asked him to help them put together a manual like the Cardinal Way for the Cubs. Why? For the story? No, for continuity. For consistency. This is something that other teams saw the Cardinals had in their development and have brought together. LaRocque and others credit Mozeliak as the "GPS" who gave the system its direction to be more collaborative and cohesive and consistent. That is a feat. Look at some of the other systems out there some time and how many different directions they seem to be pulling in. While the benefit of such a system was clear in 2013 when it helped the Cardinals in a pennant, I understand that success in the minors isn't going to sell many tickets in the majors, isn't to satisfy the sweet tooth that St. Louis has for a contender. And that's important. That is the BOTTOM LINE. Contend. And while his peers rave about Mozeliak's ability to run an organization and run a system and develop talent as well as any other team in baseball, they also see that there have been missteps with free agents, too many second-place finishes for elite talent, and some luck that players didn't accept their offers (Heyward, Jason). So, in that discipline -- acquiring elite talent on the market -- there were questions about whether Mozeliak could make such a move, or was too limited or self-limiting to make that reach, to take a leap of faith for a big deal. Did he overvalue the talent, or was he too set to get the big-return on a bargain move? Those are fair criticisms and they were out there.
And in the end those are the disciplines where a front office must excel, right? Developing talent, acquiring talent, building a successful roster, hiring the right coaches, creating an organization that improves talent, and yes, does it on the budget provided. Mozeliak & the front office he's created is in the top third of the league when it comes to the best blend of these things. Top third of baseball, too, and probably closer to the top five over the longterm than some in here want to admit. Cashman stands out, of course. The Cubs have a strong front office. Milwaukee is on the rise, and before the 2018 season definitely got the boardroom win in an upset against the Cardinals. No doubt. The Dodgers are good. The Rays. Boston, of course. And when you talk to peers then you're going to hear a similar list of the best, and the Cardinals are going to be on it. Because they, like ownership, take a more global view than just the standings in the majors. And, as of now, there are handful of GMs that shake their head and wonder how the Cardinals got Goldschmidt and then got him to sign they did. Lots of envy there.
I'm not sure where the radio host in DC would rank Mozeliak.
My bet? He doesn't know who Mozeliak is. That could be East Coast bias, that could be being out of October for three consecutive years, or that could just be the charisma of Rizzo. Who knows. But if Rizzo is one of the top five, then so are 10 others.