Team up with us for 99¢
Cards talk about need for change at press conference

From left, on July 15: Cardinals general manager Michael Girsch, chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and president of baseball operations John Mozeliak. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

A is for accountability.

It appears to be the theme of the Cardinals’ offseason.

John Mozeliak ladled it out in hearty doses during this week’s meeting with the media.

Marcell Ozuna’s delay in treating a shoulder injury was compared to a thirsty man who was led to water yet refused to partake. The president of baseball operations described the outfielder as an occasional “liability because of his inability to throw.” Ozuna’s power outages at the plate earned the tag of “frustrating.” Ouch.

Carlos Martinez “definitely has to be diligent” in his recovery from an injury-plagued season, and the team is very glad he is sticking around St. Louis, where he is easier to monitor. Interpret that as you will.

Reliever Brett Cecil had what was deemed “a lost season.”

And every single player found himself underneath the new accountability umbrella as Mozeliak described a new approach to monitor players’ progress in multiple phases, from physical therapy to baseball development.

“The accountability of this offseason is going to be very real, and our expectations are going to be very clear,” Mozeliak said.

Let's keep the accountability rolling.

We, meaning media members covering the Cardinals, need to be more accountable.

Just ask the fans.

We the media should stop mentioning Bryce Harper as the obvious fit for the Cardinals, for example, because a vocal portion of the fan base continues to tell us that’s not realistic, that we are just gassing up the Cardinals for another swing-and-miss. We should be more accountable.

Or maybe we the media should only write about Harper and Manny Machado and ignore every other topic until the Cardinals sign one of the free-agent sluggers, because a vocal portion of the fan base continues to holler that any coverage not hinging on Harper (good fit) or Machado (bad fit) is failing to hold the Cardinals accountable.

Accountability.

Fans demand it.

And now the front office does, too.

That makes it fair game to expect accountability from the front office, right?

Want to hold Mozeliak accountable?

He spent an hour Tuesday handing you a how-to list:

Expect to see urgency this offseason. Feel wronged if you don’t. Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. is not happy with the three-year postseason absence, Mozeliak shared. And DeWitt himself told the Post-Dispatch he does not want to be a regular wild-card candidate. Six teams have a better winning percentage than the Cardinals’ .551 since the Redbirds last played past Game 162. The organization’s definition of sustained success is slowly slipping. It used to be consecutive postseason appearances. Now it’s consecutive winning seasons. DeWitt sets the tone and unlocks the vault. Mozeliak leads the charge. Actions speak louder than words.

Expect the Cardinals to stop talking about the NL Central like they are somehow not a part of it. The existence, improvement and staying power of the Brewers and Cubs has finally been acknowledged. So, toss out that old talking point about the Cardinals only worrying about themselves. It was tired awhile ago. It’s grown mold since. The blinders are off. When the Cubs and Brewers make moves that improve their rosters before and during next season, the Cardinals can no longer shrug. Not if they’re truly tired of watching the Brewers and the Cubs climb over them in the standings.

Expect That hitter. That’s how Mozeliak phrased it, as if the “that” deserved to start with a capital. Boosting the middle of the lineup is the top priority, again. Ozuna could have been the guy, but he wasn’t, and it would be hope-based thinking to expect him to carry the lineup in 2019. Mozeliak warned that the moves he makes will aim to satisfy needs, not win popularity contests. Fair enough. But there are not many hitters who do enough damage to fit the description he offered.

Expect the front office to conduct itself like it has found its next great manager. Mozeliak believes in Shildt. He envisioned this and enacted his plan. Even more reason to upgrade the talent Shildt manages.

Don’t let youth be used as an excuse. The ascension of young players has energized the organization, and rightfully so. But Mozeliak dismissed the notion of sit-back-and-wait. “We certainly understand we need to augment that (youth) in some way,” he said.

Don’t let the struggle of some recent free agents convince you the Cardinals should abstain from that market. Mozeliak said it won’t. The pool is talented and deep. Now is not the time to sit out, no matter how bad 2018 went for Dexter Fowler and some others. If anything, the Cardinals should feel encouraged to shop from higher shelves. Contrary to popular belief, the Cardinals could stretch more than ever before financially this offseason and still not drive the team into a flaming hole of dysfunction for the next decade. Honest.

Mozeliak was asked what has to give, because this seems to be nearing a breaking point of sorts. The Cardinals want sustained success. They also want to be in every postseason. But it’s been three years. Their aim is off. Their margin for error has been too thin. Their division is too good.

“We may have to take some risks,” Mozeliak said.

I want to tell you to expect the Cardinals to do just that, but instead I’ll tell you to believe it when you see it.

If they do truly stretch, as their past three seasons, fierce division and frustrated fan base suggest they should, and the whole thing flops, well, they can call for accountability from the growing crowd that is rooting for more risk.

Keep up with the latest Cardinals coverage from our award-winning team of reporters and columnists.