Mozeliak clarifies comments on Fowler

Cards' president wasn't trying to single out struggling outfielder

July 3rd, 2018

ST. LOUIS -- Stressing that his comments about 's effort and energy level on a podcast with Cardinals broadcaster Dan McLaughlin were not meant to single out the slumping right fielder, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak told that, instead, his intent was to acknowledge frustration he hears from a fan base about a team that has underachieved.
Mozeliak, who has a scheduled weekly appearance on McLaughlin's podcast, was asked in Monday's episode to evaluate Fowler's season. He responded with the following:
"It's been a frustrating year for everybody involved. Here's a guy that wants to go out and play well. I think he would tell you it's hard to do that when you're not playing and 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. 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 that is out there hustling and playing hard.
"I think, really, everybody just needs to take a hard look in the mirror and decide what they want that next chapter to look like. In Dexter's case, maybe just taking a brief timeout, trying to reassess himself and then give him a chance for a strong second half is what's best for everybody."
In clarifying his comments afterward, Mozeliak dismissed any perception that Fowler is not trying hard to correct things, noting that while "he has a different approach with how he deals with stuff … I know Dex is working."
"Our guys, they work hard," manager Mike Matheny added when asked specifically about Fowler's situation. "All of them. That's something to me that you can say is one of the controllables that we have. If and when that ever doesn't look right, it grabs you."
Fowler, who is in the second season of a five-year, $82.5 million contract, is in the midst of the worst year of his career. Dismal offensive production (.171/.276/.278) and below-average defense play (-4 DRS) have cost him his everyday job in right field. He has started just four of the team's last 10 games.
Concerns about Fowler's performance and questions about his fit in the lineup have been hot topics for a fan base that hasn't seen the sort of consistent play it expected from a club seeking to avoid being shut out of the postseason for a third straight year. That, Mozeliak said, was at the crux of his comments.
"Really, what I was trying to say was I hear what our fan base is saying, and I hope our players understand what's going on," Mozeliak said. "There's still time to win. There's still time to change. I wasn't trying to single out Dex in any way.
"When I'm out, people have no problem telling me what to do. It's come up. In general, wherever I may be sometimes, I get feedback. What I was trying to say was, 'I hear it. And I just hope our players are hearing the same thing and that they adjust to it.'
"Dex is frustrated. And, really, I was just trying to defend his frustration of the inconsistencies."
Mozeliak said he had spoken with Fowler on Monday, but that they did not discuss this topic at length since Fowler is preparing for the birth of his second child. The outfielder will miss the team's series in Arizona while on paternity leave.
What happens with Fowler's playing time when he returns is still being discussed.
"As I've always said, when you're managing, it's tough because you're always trying to give your team the best chance to win," Mozeliak said. "But when you're trying to get guys to work through things, how do you do that when you're not playing? It's a chicken-and-the-egg debate. I think now it comes down to hopefully trying to give him opportunities to get back in there."
Mozeliak also stressed that he still sees a path forward for Fowler in this organization despite how things have transpired this year. Fowler will have $49.5 million remaining on his contract after this season.