Cardinals GM John Mozeliak often sports a flamboyant bow tie when he goes to work at Busch Stadium, but there’s no truth to the rumor that he’s instructed team employees to call him “Branch Rickey” or “Mahatma.” If the bow tie fits, wear it. Rickey is among the most iconic front-office executives in baseball history, immortalized for ending baseball’s institutional segregation by signing African-American Jackie Robinson to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. During a lengthy and memorable run as Cardinals GM, Rickey changed the industry by developing the first modern minor-league system. He scouted and signed players who had leading roles in the five World Series championships won in the 1930s and 1940s. The Cardinals’ ability to cultivate an immense stockpile of elite talent drew the ire of Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who twice ordered the release of more than 50 Cardinals minor-league players to give them a chance to play elsewhere. But other franchises soon adopted the Rickey model and put their own networks in place. In 2013 the Cardinals’ player-development system is the buzz of baseball. The franchise is producing a trove of coveted talent, led by a procession of power-armed pitchers who come to the majors equipped with radiating fastballs. The system has delivered nine pitchers on the current staff: Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Joe Kelly, John Gast, Seth Maness and Fernando Salas. Other gold-plated pitching prospects, including Michael Wacha, are warming in the minors. Of the 30 players who have appeared in a major-league game for the Cardinals this season, 19 were drafted and developed internally. Two others, Martinez and Salas, were signed as undrafted free agents, then raised trough the system. Position players from the draft-alum list include Yadier Molina, Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter, Jon Jay and Matt Adams. And at Class AAA Memphis there is a potential superstar in waiting in outfielder Oscar Taveras. So when Mozeliak wears the bow tie, he does it in a way to honor the Cardinals’ glorious past — which, as he points out, is also this team’s future. Many decades later, the Rickey Way is once again the Cardinals’ Way.
Cards' success starts at the top
St. Louis Post-Dispatch | May 16