The Cards minors Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside

Gary LaRocque is taking an increased role in directing the St. Louis Cardinals player development function. What does it mean?

In January 2008, the St. Louis Cardinals made a relatively low-profile hire in Gary LaRocque as Senior Special Assistant to the General Manager. Yet it has been a very important addition, one which continues to pay dividends for the organization's vastly-improved player development pipeline.

Now, LaRocque (pronounced "La-ROCK") is taking increased responsibility in directing the Cardinals farm system, reports the Post-Dispatch.

The now-59-year-old is very well respected across the game, with over three decades of experience that began with the Dodgers as a player, coach, manager and scout. He led scouting operations and the draft as an executive with the Mets prior to joining St. Louis.

Initially, LaRocque worked for the Cardinals in professional scouting before moving to player development when John Vuch was promoted to farm director in September 2010. The mission of the North Carolina resident was to leverage his vast experience by advising Vuch in his new assignment.

In the role, LaRocque had assumed a very active presence in the field, with frequent visits to the minor league affiliates and anywhere Cardinals are playing. In my travels around the system, I often encounter Gary on the field or in the stands, watching batting and infield practice and in discussion with coaches and managers as well as scouts.

LaRocque is now being given more direct responsibility in matters that affect the on-field product, changes that seem to be occurring in a very natural and evolutionary manner.

"…we wanted to give him some autonomy with player personnel issues and other decisions within the system," General Manager John Mozeliak told the Post-Dispatch. "This is a shift in responsibilities, but from a day-to-day standpoint the changes will be subtle in appearance and operation."

The story goes on to note that "LaRocque's increased responsibility will allow him to make decisions on player transactions such as promotions, releases, and changes in position or role based on being out in the system and directly connected to the field staffs. Such moves also involve input from several members of the front office, Mozeliak added."

In other words, these key decisions were already made in a manner in which opinions were solicited from top staffers in Mozeliak's inner circle. Yet, the change in shading is that LaRocque is now standing alongside Vuch in operation of the system. It appears the former has a greater focus on staffing matters while Vuch, a long-time member of the front office, still oversees the daily operations of the farm system.

An example of the cooperative roles was provided in the article when it was noted that LaRocque is finalizing field staff hirings for 2013 (which I expect will include more changes than one year ago) while Vuch is working on signing minor league free agents to fill roster gaps.

From my perspective, it is sort of a "Mr. Inside, Mr. Outside" approach, maximizing each man's experiences, with Vuch on the inside and LaRocque working the outside game. The Cardinals should continue to grow as a result.

Related content: I interviewed LaRocque for The Cardinal Nation subscribers back in January. Link to article.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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