Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jocketty's Star Trek Paid off Talent Hunt Yielded Key Links in 'Birds' Championship Chain

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jocketty's Star Trek Paid off Talent Hunt Yielded Key Links in 'Birds' Championship Chain

Article excerpt

By mid-December of 1995, Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty was frustrated. All this money to spend and nobody wanting it.

Four consecutive times in the bidding for free agent players, the Cardinals finished second. Shortstops Walt Weiss and Greg Gagne both said no, reluctant to tread on Ozzie Smith's territory. Then the Cardinals' big fish, second baseman Craig Biggio and first baseman Mark Grace, both turned down lucrative offers to stay with their original teams.

Grace, who had the same agent as Biggio, had said that if Biggio came to St. Louis, he would have come, too. Ultimately, Jocketty refused to finish second any longer. He offered Ron Gant an extra year at $5 million - the deal was for five years at $25 million - to head off the advances of the San Diego Padres. "We had to step it up if we were going to get him," Jocketty said. Jocketty offered righthander Andy Benes $8.1 million guaranteed for two years. This Dec. 23 date, when both players were signed as early Christmas presents, was as important as any in building the National League Central Division champions. But the process started in mid-October when Tony La Russa was hired as manager. It had been no secret that the Cardinals had wanted La Russa a year earlier than they got him, but he chose to stay one more year with Oakland. He was brought in basically to jump-start what had been a moribund club. "From what I observed, there wasn't a real high intensity level here," Jocketty said. But a better attitude is generally only achieved when you have better players. That was Jocketty's next mission. First, he set off to find a shortstop, not knowing that Ozzie Smith's arm would bounce back as strongly as it did. But Weiss stayed in Colorado and Gagne signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers. "It was disappointing but, you know, it worked out better," Jocketty said. The San Francisco Giants suddenly decided to move Royce Clayton, and Jocketty gave up pitchers Allen Watson, Doug Creek and Rich DeLucia for him. On Dec. 14, the Cardinals had officially started their rebuilding process, although their next move didn't seem like it. On Dec. 15, they signed Willie McGee, 37, to a minor-league contract. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.