Before the 1960s, and in some rare cases today, a person with the General Manager title in sports has also borne responsibility for the non-player operations of the ballclub, such as ballpark administration and broadcasting.
In St. Louis, the new Cardinals Vice-President and General Manager, John Mozeliak, oversees baseball operations, to include the manager, coaching staff and player development & scouting.
John Mozeliak, 38, had been the club's interim general manager since Walt Jocketty was fired and parted ways with the franchise on October 3, following 13 seasons.
The hiring of Mozeliak represents perhaps another incremental step in the changing of the guard in the world of the baseball general managers, where the new breed of business-oriented generated managers see themselves as the conductor of the orchestra in the team-oriented management approach.
In St. Louis, we see that Mozeliak takes over the reins as the GM of the Cardinals with the manager, Tony La Russa and his staff already in place. In matters relating to the player development and scouting, Mozeliak must also work with two other entrenched Vice-Presidents; Jerry Walker, Vice-President of Player Personnel and Jeff Luhnow, Vice-President of Amateur Scouting and Player Procurement.
The idea of creating a strong support team to carry out objectives and utilizing advisors isn’t a new idea, but what is becoming more commonplace, is that the General Manager is inheriting the bulk of his staff as opposed to recruiting and signing his own personnel.
Mozeliak represents a bridge, if you will, from the old school to the new school approach in the front office and the scouting and development of players. The Cardinals new GM brings with him to the job a solid foundation and background in scouting and/or player development with an understanding of the importance and intricacies of each of these departments, giving him the ability to hit the ground running in his new role.
Many of today’s owners differ from past owners in that they care more about the bottom line than they do for baseball, thus effecting who they hire as their general managers. Author and baseball scout, Jonathan Story, points out in his book Baseball Uncensored, “Well-rounded general managers with extensive baseball backgrounds in scouting and/or coaching, coupled with interpersonal and administration skills, are becoming extinct.”
There is a disturbing trend in hiring that business administration skills are taking precedence over traditional baseball-experience. In my opinion, the hiring of Mozeliak bucks that trend and was a step in the right direction for the Cardinals to take.
Typically a changing of the guard, bringing in a new general manager, often brings about change all the way down to the lower rungs of coaching and the scouting & player development department.
In St. Louis we have seen a few changes in personnel with the departure of Walt Jocketty; Bruce Manno, the Senior Director of Professional Scouting and Special Assistant to the General Manager has accepted a new position with the Braves; Mark Riggins, who had worked within the St. Louis Cardinals organization for the past 29 years, most recently as the organization's minor league pitching coordinator for the past 12 seasons, accepted a position with the Chicago Cubs; Jim Riggleman the Cardinals Minor League Field Coordinator moved on to Seattle to take the job as the Mariner’s bench coach.
Among some of the other departures, Director of Professional Scouting Marteese Robinson departed for a position with the Washington Nationals. Minor League Hitting Coordinator Gene Tenace will not be back in 2008 and neither will minor league pitching coaches Sid Monge and Al Holland.
Mozeliak will have his chance early on to put his fingerprints on the organization by finding the right people to fill these vacancies.
The escalation of salaries negatively affects the smaller market teams, like St. Louis, in that they can’t always solve their problems with the acquisition of a marquee free agent, but it can also prevent young stars from signing long-term contracts.
The long term success of the St. Louis Cardinals will depend significantly on Mozeliak building an effective management team, with a good scouting department and a commitment on developing home grown talent. As we have seen in the past, the Cardinals inability (or unwillingness) to compete in the free-agent market makes the reliance on scouting and player development even more critical.
Mozeliak inherits one of the most storied franchises in sports history, with a healthy revenue stream, a new ballpark and a rabid fan base. His challenge will be to replace the impersonal leadership/management style of Walt Jocketty, with an approach that will embrace statistical analysis from the new kids on the block and involve the input of a broader number of people in the decision making process. This is becoming role of the modern day general manager.