Walt Jocketty Departure Press Conference

St. Louis Cardinals Chairman of the Board / General Partner Bill DeWitt Jr. and President Mark Lamping met with the press on Wednesday to discuss the circumstances surrounding the sudden and surprising departure of SVP / General Manager Walt Jocketty.

Wednesday may be remembered for some time as the beginning of a watershed period for the St. Louis Cardinals franchise. Chairman of the Board / General Partner Bill DeWitt Jr. and President Mark Lamping met with the press to discuss the surprise departure of Senior Vice President / General Manager Walt Jocketty, a decision made earlier in the day.

Despite Jocketty having one year remaining on his current contract, the decision was termed by DeWitt as a "mutual agreement". Increasing tension within the Baseball Operations organization was cited as a key factor. Jocketty did not attend the press conference.

The search for Jocketty's replacement will begin Thursday. Five-year assistant general manager John Mozeliak has been named the interim GM and will be considered as a candidate for the permanent job if he expresses interest. Vice President of Amateur Scouting and Player Development Jeff Luhnow will remain in his current role, including leading the revitalized international program.

Hired by Lamping in 1994 to replace Dal Maxvill, Jocketty's 13-year tenure resulted in six National League Central Division crowns, one Wild Card and two World Series appearances, including the 2006 World Championship. The club had not been in the playoffs for ten years until the 1996 club became the first during the Jocketty era.

Jocketty engineered some of the highest-profile swaps in the last 50 years of team history including those that brought Mark McGwire, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen to St. Louis, but also misstepped when trading for Mark Mulder.

The 56-year-old became the second-longest GM in tenure in the Major Leagues when Minnesota's Terry Ryan recently resigned. Atlanta's John Schuerholz is the leader, having joined the Braves in 1990.

Jocketty had also continually served the Cardinals franchise longer in that role than any of the general managers who preceded him. Bing Devine totaled 17 years in the job, with six and eleven-year stints interrupted by three years in the mid-1960's.

Jocketty will be paid for the final year of his Cardinals contract, but Lamping also noted Walt is now free to seek employment elsewhere. With his pedigree, Jocketty should be in demand elsewhere in baseball, though need not be pressed to make a quick decision on his next step.

DeWitt expects manager Tony La Russa, brought to St. Louis by Jocketty in 1996, to make his decision on whether or not to come back in the "reasonably near future", though he did not have a timeframe. DeWitt reiterated that he would like to see La Russa and his coaching staff return in 2008. Though not stated, Jocketty's departure certainly may have a negative impact on La Russa's decision, as well.

Following is the audio from the press conference, offered exclusively for our subscribers. DeWitt is the primary speaker, with Lamping offering comments at several points.


Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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