It’s been four days since this John Mozeliak-Dexter Fowler conundrum was dredged up, and it’s since reached a somewhat national stage with USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale mentioning it along with Fowler’s former skipper Joe Maddon.
You’ve heard the story by now…Cardinals president John Mozeliak mentions Fowler by name twice publicly, saying in his weekly chat with Dan McLaughlin:
“I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and question his effort and energy level. Those are things 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’s out there hustling and playing hard.”
Then, as if the situation wasn’t confusing enough, Mo walked back his comments a day later saying: “I hate that it come out wrong. I do think he’s at a level of frustration. But it came out that I was questioning his effort. It’s unfortunate. I talked to Dex. Everything is fine.’’
It’s confusing because Mozeliak’s initial comments didn’t leave much room for confusion; he clearly said he’d been asked by others about Dexter Fowler’s effort level and added that he couldn’t defend such talk when players who aren’t Dexter Fowler are playing hard.
Our Cardinals insider Jen Langosch of MLB.com was somewhat taken aback by the situation as well, citing Mo’s consistently playing things close to the vest.
“It was very surprising, just the comments, certainly, because Mo is always so measured and calculated in what he says…He’s very crassy and wise about the words that come out of his mouth,” Langosch recently told ‘The Bernie Miklasz Show.’
“I just don’t think that the point he was maybe trying to get across; he either didn’t do so as eloquently as he was trying to, or he did get the point he wanted to across and then maybe tried to backtrack because of the public backlash to it,” she added.
As someone who’s spent as much time around the Cardinals as anyone not working for them, Langosch doesn’t see the situation ending happily ever after.
“I asked Mo on the phone when I spoke with him [Monday] afternoon explicitly: Do you think this is a relationship that can continue here for the next three and a half years and be amenable? He said yes,” Langosch recently told ‘The Fast Lane.’
“I haven’t had that opportunity to ask the same question to Dexter; he’s away with his wife who delivered a beautiful baby girl, so congratulations first off to the Fowlers for that. Dexter is going to come back into a situation where he knows what was said. He knows the public perception of him and he knows that the manager doesn’t want to give him playing time. So I just don’t see how this ends up well,” she added.
As Mozeliak did try and increase the peace following his initial comments, he was also somewhat confused as to what all the fuss was about according to Langosch.
“Mo did try. It was interesting in speaking with him yesterday; he seemed genuinely perplexed as to why his comments seem to have taken off here,” she said. “I don’t know if he misspoke as far as what he was trying to get across? Didn’t realize that it sounded the way it did? But I think this is going to be a hard one from him to come back from and a hard one for Dexter to forget.
“We’ll see. I think the first thing that’s going to be really interesting to see play out is the playing time issue and whether Dexter gets any more of it here moving forward,” she added “And then, of course, kind of his mood coming back to a situation where he realizes he’s really not necessarily wanted here in this market.”
The situation is Catch-22-esque, in that the Cardinals don’t feel they can play Fowler when they desperately need wins and he’s not producing, but Fowler can’t start producing again if the Cardinals don’t play him. Langosch also mentioned Dexter hasn’t had the same the same jovial attitude this season he’s been known for throughout his career.
“To be fair, it is hard to look like you’re having fun when you’re hitting .170 and haven’t gotten it together this year. So those, I’m sure, go hand in hand,” she said. “I know there’s frustration, too, on his behalf as to why he’s not getting any opportunities. He’s seen other people in this organization get much longer leashes than he has this year from the manager.
“That’s not to defend Dexter, because at some point the Cardinals do have to play their hottest hand. They’re in a position where they need to win games and if Dexter’s not giving them the best opportunity to do so, it’s not smart to continue playing him.”
Time will tell how the situation plays out, but Nightengale writes of “a mutual parting expected this winter,” in his talked-about piece, while Maddon called the situation “unfortunate.” Step one on the road to resolving will be Thursday night in San Francisco when Fowler rejoins the club after paternity leave.
“He’s not going to be able to show much energy and effort level from the bench,” Langosch said. “I think it would probably do the team well if he did [start thursday], and give Dexter an opportunity to maybe come back, have a little bit of a fresh start and get off on the right foot.”
Stay tuned to 101 ESPN and 101Sports.com for plenty of Cardinals talk and analysis as the trade deadline approaches and the season unfolds.