The Cardinals announced on Wednesday afternoon that the club was parting ways with senior vice president and general manager Walt Jocketty. John Mozeliak, who recently completed his fifth season as the Cardinals' assistant GM, will be taking over as interim general manager while the club searches for Jocketty's replacement.
"The Cardinals and Walt Jocketty are turning the page today with mutual admiration and appreciation for each other," principal owner Bill DeWitt Jr. said Wednesday. "Speaking to Walt this morning, we are in agreement that our relationship -- which has produced one of the finest eras in the history of Cardinals baseball -- had likely run its course."
Jocketty was hired on Oct. 14, 1994, with the charge of reviving a franchise that had not made the postseason since 1987. The Cardinals won the National League Central in 1996, and though they struggled somewhat in the ensuing three seasons, the 2000 campaign began one of the most successful periods in the team's history.
"I hired him as the assistant GM from Colorado," Cardinals president Mark Lamping said. "Walt and I talked a while today after the meeting. We joked a little bit. Neither one of us thought we'd last 13 years, and to have the type of success during that period, that's a heck of a run. It was a tremendous time period.
"Then you look at what's occurring today. You have one of the proudest franchises in all of sports, the best fans in baseball, loyal fans, a $100 million dollar-plus payroll, a new ballpark. One of the best jobs in baseball just opened today. I really salute Walt for everything he did, not only in the past but also where we are today, and I'm excited to see what happens over the course of the next several weeks in people that are interested in becoming part of the Cardinals family."
In total, the Cardinals made seven postseason trips in 13 seasons with Jocketty as general manager, winning two National League pennants and the 2006 World Series. The club went 1,117-968 with Jocketty at the helm -- a .536 winning percentage.
"I think that we had a little different philosophy and vision with respect to some baseball issues," DeWitt said. "There was clearly tension that was reported widely, not only locally but nationally in the organization. While I've said on several occasions that tension is in every organization, I do think it got to the point with the Cardinals that is was counter-productive. We couldn't achieve our objectives given what was going on inside the organization."
Jocketty took umbrage at the 2006 promotion of Jeff Luhnow, who had been head of amateur scouting, to a position that oversees both scouting and player development. The move came at the expense of Bruce Manno, one of Jocketty's closest aides.
"He clearly didn't agree with the decision," DeWitt said. "I think he said that publicly. I think that my view is that one person should run both: procurement, development and international. Three things, but international is really procurement. And he felt it should be split."
Though Jocketty had another year left on his contract, there were several media reports throughout the season that had the GM's name linked to possible job openings in other cities.
DeWitt said he spoke to Jocketty about those reports.
"We would have conversations about it," DeWitt said. "This was as early as mid-season, I guess, and he said he didn't know where the rumors were coming from and I certainly didn't know where they were coming from. We were focusing on the season, but I could sense he wasn't all that happy with the overall situation and some of the direction of the organization."
Lamping said the time was right to make a move.
"I think we all observed what a distraction it was this year with what's going to happen with Tony and then you compound that with, 'Is Walt going to San Francisco? Is he going to Cincinnati? Is he going to Pittsburgh? Is he going to Seattle?'" Lamping said. "All of that, that would just be magnified next year. I believe from Walt's perspective it's the best time, and from the organization's perspective it's the best time, as well."
The timing is curious with respect that La Russa's contract is up and the veteran manager is still trying to decide if he wants to continue to manage and whether or not he wants to continue in that capacity in St. Louis.
DeWitt said he expects La Russa to make a decision soon.
"I spoke to Tony this afternoon and he has yet to make a decision," DeWitt said. "I can't answer what impact this will have on his decision. He's not ready to make a decision yet, and I reaffirmed to him that we were committed to providing resources to have a competitive team next year and also to continuing to build a development system that will provide top-notch Cardinals in the future."
As for filling the GM spot, DeWitt said that Mozeliak would be considered a candidate if he would like to be.
"He's done an excellent job working with Walt and I think will do a fine job as our interim GM," DeWitt said. "There's continuity there. He's got a lot of good attributes that will serve us well here."
DeWitt also said that Luhnow, the vice president in charge of amateur scouting and player procurement, would not be considered for the GM job.
The owner said the Cardinals did not yet have a list of potential candidates for the position, but made it clear that he wants someone who places a priority on player development.
"We'll want someone who has a passion for that and believes that is critical to the success of the baseball operation," DeWitt said.
So with that, the Cardinals embark on an offseason of uncertainty. Just one season removed from defeating the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, St. Louis will head to Spring Training in a couple of months with a new general manager in the front office and possibly a new manager on the bench.
"This is a very important time in this era of Cardinals history," DeWitt said.
Nate Latsch is a contributor to MLB.com. Matthew Leach, a reporter for MLB.com, contributed to this article. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less