John Mozeliak, who is forever the architect of a World Series champion, annually builds a team that contends for the playoffs.
But the St. Louis Cardinals have not won a game in the National League Championship Series since 2014. That year, they won one.
That’s a lot of years of being close, but not that close.
Now, cracking the playoff code is tricky. Heck, even with their payroll, the Yankees haven’t even been to a World Series since 2009.
So in St. Louis, here we go again, another chance for the Cardinals to attempt to win title No. 12.
And while this column could have a short shelf life — especially if Jose Quintana is shelled in Game 1 — Mozeliak deserves credit for not only building the 2022 team, but also bolstering this club in early August.
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In the days and hours before the trade deadline, the Cards' president of baseball operations traded for Quintana and Jordan Montgomery.
“I’m not sure it’s talked about enough — it was an unbelievable trade deadline for us,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said Thursday, prior to the team’s postseason workout.
Quite simply, Quintana had a 2.01 ERA in his 12 St. Louis starts and Montgomery had a 3.11 ERA in 11.
Combined, the two struck out 109 batters and walked just 29.
These guys got them here — hosting the Wild Card Series as Central Division champs, beginning Friday against Philadelphia. Mozeliak and his staff identified how both pitchers could fit in with the club — and executed the trades to acquire the pair of southpaws.
“At the end of the day, was it the shiniest of objects?” Marmol asked. “Was is what everybody was talking about? Absolutely not. (But) we won the trade deadline. That's a big reason why we sit here, looking at what Montgomery and Quintana have done.”
“Q” is 3-2 and “Monty” is 6-3, but more importantly, they kept the Cards in games they weren’t given decisions. The team is 9-3 in Quintana starts and 8-3 in Montgomery starts.
“There were some big names that were being moved, and maybe some names that weren't on everyone's radar,” Mozeliak said Thursday. “With ‘Q,’ he was someone that we felt like his profile really matched well with our club. He was someone that it's not necessarily a high strikeout rate, but a guy that gets ground balls in play — and you pair that with our defense, we thought we could see more out of that. And certainly that has been a success. And as we envisioned, it came through.
“And then in ‘Monty’s’ case, we really look at ‘Monty’ as one of the better pitchers in the game. And we had to give up a quality player (in Harrison Bader) to get him — somewhere off your major league roster, which is not necessarily always your strategy at the trade deadline. But given the depth we had in the outfield, we thought it was something we could do and sustain. And so far, we have been able to do that.”
Marmol didn’t announce if Montgomery would start Game 3 (if necessary). Could be Jack Flaherty (I’d go with Jack Flaherty). Marmol has suggested he’d also consider Adam Wainwright. But expect to see the lefty Montgomery at some point this series — his stuff can be dominant, especially against lefties (such as, say, reigning MVP Bryce Harper and home run champ Kyle Schwarber).
“Both guys obviously injected a lot of success right away to our organization, our team,” Mozeliak said. “And it was something that was much needed. And clearly we're probably not here without them. But, you know, sometimes you make deals and they work out, sometimes they don't. These particular ones certainly helped us.”