ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – St. Louis Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. joined KMOX’s Chirs Hrabe just a few days after their 2016 season officially ended. It was a high note to win the final 4 games of the season, but the final push arrived a bit too late.
Listen to the full conversation:
DeWitt talked with Hrabe about this year’s overall organization from low-level Palm Beach players, to Manager Mike Matheny’s performance. But here are the six most important points he left us with:
Organization effectiveness is high – Just last season Luke Weaver and Alex Reyes were in single-A baseball, by season’s end this year they were regular starters in St. Louis. DeWitt explained the Cardinals’ keys to success the last 10 years as drafting skill, developing talent and scouting in the international markets.
Proof of that success is that the three lowest affiliates in the organization won their league championships: short-season A State College, rookie-level Johnson City and the GCL Cardinals.
“Without it, we’re just another club out there,” DeWitt on the effectiveness of the minors.
Exploring the free agent market – Last season the Cardinals set its sights on two top free agents, and lost on both of them. Jason Heyward and David Price instead signed huge contracts with the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox respectively. But DeWitt says even though the team hasn’t done well in the open market, there is a reasonable explanation for that:
“(Heyward) that wasn’t a money situation, he just felt like (Chicago) was a better fit for him. David Price on the other hand, knows the Cardinals I think (St. Louis) was a first choice it was certainly his preference.”
He believes once the Cardinals have a guy in St. Louis, they almost always want to stay for the ‘atmosphere and all that.’
Player and coaching flexibility – Matt Carpenter played at least 40 games in three different positions this season, which is just one example of the shuffling of players due to injuries this year. But what about Bill Mueller’s role as first base coach for all 162 games this year?
He came to Cardinals as an assistant hitting coach in January, but when third base coach and infield instructor José Oquendo had knee surgery and was unable to perform his duties, Mueller was promoted to an on-field position. Then Chris Maloney, the first base coach for the last four seasons, was moved to Oquendo’s usual spot at third. Thankfully, Maloney coached third throughout his time in the minors and Mueller was a World Series-winning infielder with Boston in 2004, so he could also take over Oquendo’s role coaching the infielders.
Unfortunately for the St. Louis club, Oquendo won’t return to his role next season. He is instead expected to work with the minor leagues teams in Florida, which should be huge plus for player development.
In Matheny he trusts – DeWitt noted three element of a great manager: having the player’s respect, being a leader and knowing how to use the players effectively. He knows managing is most often a numbers game of 60-40 decision, but that means almost half of Matheny’s decisions will theoretically be wrong.
Still, he has finished top-five in voting for Manager of the Year in the National Year in everyone of his first four seasons in charge of the Cardinals. He been to a World Series and has a 100-win season, and there’s never been a negative story about his relationship with a player. What more can you ask for?
Matt Holliday’s heroics – The decision to send Holliday out to left in the final inning of the Cardinals last game this year was done completely unbeknownst to DeWitt. But he says it was the perfect way to say good bye, if in fact Holliday doesn’t return to St. Louis in 2017.
Holliday’s arrival in 2009 was the perfect summary of transforming the 2006 World Series Championship roster to the 2011 world champs. The ’06 guys like Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen were on their way out, and Holliday was able to take the reigns with Albert Pujols, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina for the next World Series win.
DeWitt remembers when he first signed Holliday to the 7-year $120 million deal: “Some of my fellow owners in baseball said boy you sure paid a lot for Matt, and I said you know what he’s a great teammate, a great player and we’ll have no regrets. And we certainly haven’t.”
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