By any measure, this has been a colossally disappointing season for Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler. He is hitting a weak .171/.276/.278 with five home runs in 66 games in the second year of his five-year, $82.5 million contract. A case can be made he is fifth on the team's outfield depth chart behind Tommy Pham, Marcell Ozuna, Harrison Bader and Tyler O'Neill.
On Monday morning, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak called Fowler's energy and effort into question during his weekly interview with Fox Sports Midwest broadcaster Dan McLaughlin. Here is a transcript, via Hardball Talk:
"It's been a frustrating year for everybody involved. Here's a guy who wants to go out and play well. I think he would tell you it's hard to do that when you're not playing on a consistent basis. But 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 really I think everyone just needs to take a hard look in the mirror, and decide what they want that next chapter to look like.
"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."
First of all, a team executive publicly calling out a player for his energy and effort is bad enough, especially when hiding behind the vague "I've had a lot of people come up to me" line. Either put your name on it and say his effort level is a problem or don't. You're the president of baseball operations. This is not something that should be passed along as secondhand information.
Secondly, the timing is just awful. Fowler was placed on the paternity list Monday as his wife prepares to give birth to their second child, so he's not even around the team to speak to the media and defend himself. Even if Mozeliak went to Fowler and raised these concerns privately at some point recently, making them public while the guy is away to be with his family as they welcome a child into the world is a bad, bad look.
Maybe Fowler truly isn't playing with the energy and effort level required of a big-league ballplayer. If that is the case, then it's something that should be handled in house. And it certainly is not something that should be made public when the player is away on paternity leave.