Every Monday, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak sits down for an interview with Fox Sports Midwest broadcaster Dan McLaughlin. During today’s interview, Mozeliak was asked about outfielder Dexter Fowler, who is having an abysmal season. Mozeliak called into question Fowler’s effort and energy level, stunningly.
It’s been a frustrating year for everybody involved. Here’s a guy who wants to go out and play well. I think he would tell you it’s hard to do that when you’re not playing on a consistent basis. But I’ve also had a lot of people come up to me and question his effort and his energy level. You know, those are things that I can’t defend. What I can defend is trying to create opportunities for him, but not if it’s at the expense of someone who’s out there hustling and playing hard. And really I think everyone just needs to take a hard look in the mirror, and decide what they want that next chapter to look like. And in Dexter’s case, maybe taking a brief time out, trying to reassess himself, and then give him a chance for a strong second half is probably what’s best for everybody. I’m hopeful to touch base with him in the near future and decide what makes the most sense, but clearly he’s not playing at the level we had hoped.
If Mozeliak is going to toss comments out questioning Fowler’s effort level, he should either back them up publicly or apologize. In Mozeliak’s defense, he is not the first member of a team front office to call out Fowler. Dan O’Dowd, then-GM of the Rockies in 2013, said of Fowler, “I think he’s got to get tougher. No doubt. He’s got to show up and play with an edge every day, not just when he has to.”
Fowler returned the salvo after that season and after he was traded to the Astros, saying, “I’m still trying to figure out where they’re coming from. ‘Passion for the game’ — I mean, you see me each and every day. This will never change. So I don’t know where that was coming from. Dan’s never in the clubhouse, so he probably never sees any of that. I don’t even know who’s the GM. I think everybody over there is still wondering who really is the GM … Dan and (Bill Geivett) are just both coexisting.”
Mozeliak’s timing isn’t great, either, as Fowler went on the paternity leave list on Sunday as his wife Alicia gives birth to their second child. Fowler is aware of Mozeliak’s comments as he liked — and then unliked — a post about the issue made made by @BleacherNation. It will be interesting to see if responds publicly.
Fowler, 32, is in the second year of a five-year, $82.5 million contract. He enters Monday’s action batting .171/.276/.278 with five home runs and 20 RBI in 250 plate appearances. The Cardinals have gradually reduced Fowler’s playing time, inserting Harrison Bader into the mix in right field. It’s possible that Fowler just isn’t putting in any effort, but the issue is more likely that Fowler is 32 years old and has battled a knee injury this season. Injuries and a decline in production tend to happen to players in their 30’s.
Update (9:48 PM ET): Per MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch, Mozeliak said, “I wasn’t trying to single out Dex in any way.” Mozeliak tried to pin the comments as paraphrasing fans who come up to him in public. However, Mozeliak said as much in his original comment, then said about fans’ complaints of Fowler’s perceived effort and energy, “Those are things that I can’t defend.” He then contrasted Fowler with Bader, saying Bader was “someone who’s out there hustling and playing hard.” So this seems like a poor attempt at walking back throwing one of his players under the bus.