After my Top Five All-Time Cardinal Manager Series, I have decided to start a new series. All-Time Top Five Cardinals Executives. I am kicking off this series with an executive who has been much maligned in recent months for his handling of the situation involving recently ousted Cardinals manager Mike Shildt and for his perceived mishandling of the franchise itself. He has been the object of much scorn among the fans of Cardinal Nation. In various Cardinal-related social media groups, he is constantly bashed with posts of MO MUST GO and he has been ridiculed through memes that say things such as MOZO THE CLOWN
Born in Boulder, Colorado in 1969, he graduated from the University of Colorado and began his career in professional baseball with the establishment of the Colorado Rockies franchise in 1993. He was asked to serve as a batting practice pitcher because they needed someone who could throw left-handed. A special clubhouse job was then created for him and he began working with General Manager Bob Gebhard and Assistant GM Walt Jocketty.
In 1995, Jocketty left Colorado and brought Mozeliak with him when he was hired as the new General Manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. Mo joined the Scouting Department and became Director of Scouting in 1999. He then served as Jocketty’s Assistant GM for five seasons. During his tenure in the Scouting Department, Mozeliak oversaw the drafting of superstars Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina. He gained a reputation as an “up and comer” in the industry and was even interviewed for GM vacancies in Cincinnati and Houston.
On October 3, 2007, the Cardinals announced they were making a change at the GM position. Walt Jocketty’s time as the GM of the St. Louis Cardinals had come to an end and John Mozeliak was named as his successor. Mozeliak made what were seen by some fans as dubious front office moves. On December 15, 2007, he traded Jim Edmunds who had been a fan favorite to the San Diego Padres for David Freese. The move ended up working out for the better for the Cardinals as Freese, a St. Louis area native, became a fan favorite himself. A month later on January 14, 2008, Mozeliak traded away another fan favorite as Third Baseman Scott Rolen was sent to the Blue Jays for 1996 Olympic Baseball Bronze Medalist Troy Glaus. On March 14, 2008, Mozeliak brought in Kyle Lhose to help bolster the starting rotation. The additions of Glaus and Lhose were contributing factors in the Cardinals 8 win improvement from 2007 to 2008. The Cards went from 78 wins in 2007 to 86 wins in 2008, though they did drop a notch to Fourth Place in the divisional standings. Glaus would contribute 27 home runs and a .270 average and Lhose would contribute 15 wins to lead the club in that department. The 2008 squad was also helped by the emergence of Ryan Ludwick as a power hitter. He hit 37 home runs to tie Albert Pujols for the club lead in that category.
The next year, 2009, brought the Cards their first divisional title since 2006. Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter led the pitching staff with 19 and 17 wins respectively. Albert Pujols and Skip Schumaker both hit over .300. However, the big move was the acquisition of slugger Matt Holliday from The Oakland A’s. The Cardinals run in the postseason was brief as they were swept in the National League Division Series by the Dodgers three games to none. Before the start of the 2010 Season the Cards signed Holliday to a 7 year/$120 million contract.
The Cards would win 86 games in 2010, but would miss out on the division title and postseason play, losing out to the Cincinnati Reds. This despite Adam Wainwright’s first 20-win season. Before the 2011 Season, the Cardinals signed power hitter Lance Berkman to a two year deal. The 2011 Season would become the stuff of legend. After being swept by the Dodgers, the Cardinals stood 10.5 games out of the Wild Card, but they rallied and ended up taking the Wild Card by one game over the Braves with a record of 90-72. They beat the Phillies in five games in an epic NLDS and then got by the Brewers in the NLCS to reach the World Series. It was in the World Series that David Freese cemented his status as a fan favorite. In Game Six with the Cardinals down to their last strike, he hit a two run Triple to tie the game at 7 and then his walk off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning forced Game Seven, which the Cardinals won 6-2, giving them their 11th World Championship. After the 2011 Series, Tony La Russa suddenly retired and was replaced by former Cardinal catcher Mike Matheny. The Cardinals would advance to the postseason in each of the next four years highlighted by a return to the Fall Classic in 2013. Unfortunately, their bid for their twelfth World Championship fell short as they lost to the Boston Red Sox in six games. The Cards’ run of consecutive postseason appearance ended in 2016, but they averaged 86 wins over the next three years. Their 83 wins in 2017 were the worst total under John Mozeliak’s watch. 93 games into the 2018 Season, Mike Matheny was fired and replaced by Mike Shildt.
On December 5, 2018, the Cardinals made another savvy front office move, acquiring slugging First Baseman Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks. They would lock him in through the 2023 Season with a 5 year/$130 million deal. In 2019, the Cardinals won the NL Central Division title with a record of 91-71. In his first full season, Mike Shildt was named National League Manager of the Year. In the postseason, the Cards would beat the Atlanta Braves three games to two in the National League Division Series. However, in the NLCS, they were swept by the Washington nationals in four games.
In 2020, Spring Training was abruptly cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The opening of the season was delayed until July 24. This resulted in Major League Baseball playing a truncated 60 game schedule. For 17 days while they failed to meet COVID protocols, the Cards’ record remained frozen at 2-3. They wouldn’t resume play until August 15. Despite the rigors of having to play 11 doubleheaders from then until the end of the season, they would return to the postseason, but they would fall to the San Diego Padres in three games. Before the 2021 Season, the Cardinals were finally able to make the move they had wanted to make in 2020 by acquiring 8-time Gold Glove Third Baseman Nolan Arenado from the Colorado Rockies. They made a couple of moves that were very popular with fans by bringing Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina back for one more year (both would later re-up for 2022). 2021 started out very well for the Cards as they were in First Place in late May. In June, injuries started to hit and the Cards experienced one of their worst months ever. At one point, they fell back to 4 games under .500 – very uncharacteristic for the Cardinals. On August 10, their record stood at 56-56. The next day, they put .500 in the rear view mirror for good. They would go 34-16 the rest of the way, including a club record 17 game winning streak, and finish with a record of 90-72. They would leapfrog past several teams – the Reds, Padres, Phillies and Mets – to claim the second National League Wild Card spot. Their postseason stay would be short as thy lost the one game play-in game to the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-1. After the end of the season, the Cards fired manager Mike Shildt and named Bench Coach Oliver Marmol as the new manager.
During Mozeliak’s tenure with the Cards, he has built the club into a consistent contender. Blockbuster deals, 9 trips to the postseason, 5 NL Central titles, 2 NL Pennants and a World Championship and an average of almost 90 wins per year. The record speaks for itself.