ST. LOUIS -- John Mozeliak isn’t deaf to the calls for action. He is well aware of what is written about his team and what fans are discussing via social media. He doesn’t pretend to ignore the noise from outside his offices.
“If you think of what it was like 20 years ago, there might be a little something written in the newspaper and someone might do a letter to the editor,” the St. Louis Cardinals GM said. “Now it can be in the form of a tweet, a blog, a Facebook post. There are a hundred different methods to express your opinion with what’s happening.”
What’s interesting about Mozeliak’s approach is that he monitors the talk, and even takes it into consideration when making decisions. He thinks he can sometimes learn something from the wisdom of the crowd.
“If enough people are calling for something, maybe it does make sense,” Mozeliak said. “That doesn’t drive our decision-making, but I’m cognizant of where our fan base wants to see us go.”
The Cardinals have been relatively quiet this winter outside of signing reliever Brett Cecil and trading away starter Jaime Garcia, leading to a clamoring for action from some of their fan base frustrated by a rare hiatus from playoff contention and again wondering when the team’s front office will make a major splash.
If Mozeliak is heeding the buzz as the Cardinals head to D.C. for the winter meetings, he might be most compelled to pursue leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler, who has generated the most rumors since the team’s initial impulse to add a center fielder and move Randal Grichuk to left.
The hang-up is age. Fowler will be 31 by the time next season begins, which could rule him out if his camp is seeking a deal longer than three or four years.
If those discussions are ongoing, that is far from the only iron in the fire for the Cardinals, who also are believed to be discussing corner outfielders and, perhaps, even shortstops and second basemen.
Whether they touched base with Greg Genske, the agent for third baseman Justin Turner, is unknown, but a source indicated the team’s interest in Turner -- who might be the best hitter on the market -- is far from strong. The only way Turner, 32, lands in St. Louis is if his market falls apart and he can be acquired on a short-term basis.
The Cardinals did make serious efforts to sign David Price and Jason Heyward last winter, but both accepted other offers. For the second winter in a row, fans seem agitated by the team’s lack of big-splash moves.
“A lot of fans think they should get more done,” said Mark Gram, who runs a Facebook group for Cardinals fans. “Especially for fans under 40, a lot of them have a sense of entitlement because they’ve only seen their team win. When it doesn’t, they get real nasty and impatient. They don’t understand you can’t just throw money around and make a team go.”
In the long term, the Cardinals should have the revenue to support healthy payrolls, fueling calls for big-money moves. The Cardinals recently announced plans for a $220 million addition to their popular Ballpark Village development outside Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals, who last year missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010, spent about $120 million on player salaries last season, 11th in baseball. For the fourth season in a row, they trailed only the Los Angeles Dodgers in attendance, as an average of 42,524 fans bought tickets for their games.
“I’ve always felt that St. Louis is a special place to work in baseball, because clearly our fan base, regardless of their opinions, is extremely strong,” Mozeliak said. “They show up, they appreciate good baseball.
“I think they appreciate people who play the game hard, watch the types of players they admire. They’re very supportive of people who put out a strong effort. In terms of the culture shift, I think what’s happening is more of a society thing than something about the Cardinals.”
Should the Cardinals remain relatively quiet this winter and miss the playoffs again, the noise only figures to intensify in the fall of 2017. The plan, of course, is to keep that from happening. Given the team’s track record, with two World Series titles and seven playoff appearances since 2006, the Cardinals don’t feel the need to overreact to one disappointing season. Until it becomes a deafening roar, the frustration mouthed by Cardinals fans is just reassuring background noise.