Update: Mozeliak has since attempted to clear things up, saying that his comments were not meant to be specific to Fowler but to the entire team — a Cardinals squad sitting in third place in the NL Central, 5.5 games back of first.
In an email to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Mozeliak said of his earlier statements,
“I would not make too much of this and really what I was trying to say is: I hear what our fan base is saying. And I just hope our players understand it as well, but there is a time to get this right and to win.”
He also said he’s since spoken to Fowler, who understood how things were meant to come across.
So, seemingly, this is now just a case of lessons being learned about the phrasing you use to discuss team issues rather than a case of a team executive specifically targeting one player unfairly. Still not a great look, but at least he tried to clarify his supposed meaning.
Dexter Fowler is hitting .171/.276/.278. with a 554 OPS and an OPS+ of 53 this season, a stat line which goes right past “a rough stretch” and zooms into “career worst might not be descriptive enough for this travesty” territory. Fowler’s 2017 was almost twice as good, and seeing as he’s in the middle of a 5-year/$82.5 million contract St. Louis is probably hoping there’s a concrete reason behind his struggles.
Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak thinks his down year is directly tied to Fowler’s effort on the field, and he wasn’t afraid to comment about that publicly before even going to Fowler directly and discussing his concerns.
Mozeliak talked about Fowler on his weekly radio hit with Dan McLaughlin, and some choice disparaging comments about the Cardinals centerfielder are as follows,
“... 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 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.”
Literally none of these are appropriate to say about a player before you’ve touched base with them one-on-one in private. What’s worse, is that because Fowler is on paternity leave he has to sit here and watch a front office executive put him down without any opportunity to counter the comments.
This isn’t a great look for a front office executive at any time, but especially not when a veteran player is away from the team for family reasons. It’s hard to imagine Fowler or his wife Aliya won’t be insulted by the timing if not the comments as well. They’ve already been driven off Twitter thanks to harassment from Cardinals fans, and now it’s coming from team leadership as well.