I hope everyone is having a pleasant and safe Fourth of July weekend. I’ll get us started with jalapeno peppers on the grill, stuffed with a three-cheese mix that includes diced shrimp. And because it’s a holiday, we’ll wrap the plump jalapenos in bacon.
Please save a couple of bratwurst for me, but make sure to char it. I’ll prepare the slices of green pepper and onion, which I’ll slow-boil in beer, right there on the grill. And we’ll slather the softened pepper and onion on the crispy sausage, and tuck it into a torpedo-shaped Italian roll.
When it’s time to get serious, I’ll get started on the swordfish steaks, which I’ll top with a scrumptious and generous lump of crab imperial. Would you like homemade Asian slaw with that? And help yourselves to that stack of fresh corn on the cob, straight off the grill — coated with butter laced with a subtle touch of garlic.
Are you hungry yet?
This is supposed to be a sports column.
So let’s get serious...
When the Cardinals fired scouting director Chris Correa for his misguided hacking of the Astros’ database, another talented baseball analyst made his exit from the baseball-operations headquarters at Busch Stadium.
And with Correa gone, the brain-drain continued. When Cardinals’ scouting VP Jeff Luhnow left St. Louis late in 2011 to become Astros’ general manager, he imported some expertise from Busch Stadium.
Most notable among the Houston transfers was Sig Mejdal, the Cards’ director of draft analytics. Other St. Louis baseball-ops employees following Luhnow included Mike Elias, Oz Ocampo, Charlie Gonzalez and Brent Strom.
Cardinals GM John Mozeliak hired St. Louisan Dan Kantrovitz away from Oakland to replace Luhnow as the head of scouting. Three years later — with increasing tension in the ranks as some of the newer baseball brains nudged their way into the front-office politics — Kantrovitz hopped back to Oakland to become the A’s assistant GM.
Mozeliak stayed in house and promoted Correa to succeed Kantrovitz; now Correa is the latest to go. Correa’s hack attack was foolish and irresponsible, but he was a rising star in the industry. Baseball insiders touted Correra as having one of the most formidable young minds in the game.
The turnover inside St. Louis baseball headquarters has been frequent and significant. Some of the Cardinals’ best and brightest talent analysts and draftniks are now applying their methods in other MLB organizations.
With the FBI still investigating the Cardinals’ alleged cyber espionage, you have to assume the STL operation will absorb more hits and damaging repercussions.
Following the directive of advanced-analysis true believer Bill DeWitt Jr., the team chairman, Mozeliak put together an astute front-office crew. But it’s gradually been ripped apart by defection and scandal.
Mozeliak has done an admirable job of finding replacements to fill the intelligence void. But how much longer can the Cardinals realistically survive the constant turmoil and maintain stability inside a vitally important operation? When will the quality of the scouting and drafting erode — it it isn’t slipping already?
An increasingly difficult challenge could take a more severe turn if other members of baseball-ops staff are implicated — and possibly indicted — after the Justice Department completes its work.
The dignified and respected DeWitt is admired by his MLB ownership peers and provided valuable counsel for commissioners Bud Selig and Rob Manfred.
DeWitt worked hard for many years to establish a first-rate reputation in the baseball business, only to be left embarrassed by the hacking scandal and its subsequent criticism and ridicule.
If DeWitt is truly as furious and shaken as many within the game believe, there’s no predicting his eventual course of action here. No one would blame DeWitt for scrubbing the stain by cleaning house and clearing out the baseball front office.
There’s a delicate balance here. The Cardinals have some capable, loyal and honest employees in baseball operations. They’ve done nothing to bring shame on DeWitt’s house, and the owner and the GM will need to lean on them to get through this storm.
But if DeWitt does too little and leaves most of the staff intact, he’ll probably be accused of going soft on baseball crime. And the residue of scandal will harden.
DeWitt can’t overcompensate by firing innocent staffers. But on the other hand, the gentleman owner can’t afford to come across as cavalier or unrepentant — a perception that would do more harm to his rep.
This will be the biggest test of DeWitt’s public life. A man of principle and integrity must find a way to be tough but fair. He must convey genuine disgust and remorse by what went down inside the walls of his baseball nerve center. But DeWitt’s actions will be decidedly more powerful than his words.
Even though the Cardinals have been sullied by the hacking and the horrible publicity that washed over them, this is still a great organization led by good men. But now DeWitt, Mozeliak and team president Bill DeWitt III have much work to do to make their leadership stand up to withering scrutiny.
The leaders of this iconic franchise have to rehabilitate the team’s image and restore the enormous equity accrued by the elder DeWitt since his purchase of the Cardinals in 1996.
DeWitt’s baseball life has been a blessing. But DeWitt understands the stark nature of his duty more than anyone. He did more than simply buy a baseball team. He also inherited the responsibility — and the unspoken burden — of protecting the Cardinals’ esteemed legacy.
It says here that he’s up to the challenge.